Lorna Cobbold: Company & Stage Manager (Cabaret, Les Miserable, Lion King, Mary Poppins)

Lorna Cobbold: Company & Stage Manager (Cabaret, Les Miserable, Lion King, Mary Poppins)

Lorna Cobbold: Company & Stage Manager (Cabaret, Les Miserable, Lion King, Mary Poppins)

Five Minute Call - S01E06 - Episode Summary

In this episode of "The Five Minute Call" podcast, hosts Oren and Claire sit down with Lorna Cobbold, a world-class company manager and stage manager with nearly three decades of experience in the performing arts industry. Lorna shares her incredible journey, from her early days as an Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) at the Royal Court Theatre to her current role as a highly sought-after Company Stage Manager in London's West End and on Broadway. Throughout the conversation, Lorna offers a unique and candid glimpse into the world of theatre, revealing the intricate details of what goes on behind the scenes to bring a production to life.

Lorna's passion for her craft is evident as she discusses the various aspects of stage management, from the nuts and bolts of prop management and set design to the delicate art of managing a team of actors, technicians, and creatives. She shares her experiences working on some of the most iconic productions in theatre history, including Les Misérables, The Lion King, and Cabaret, and offers insights into the challenges and triumphs of putting on a successful show. Lorna also delves into the differences between working on plays and musicals, highlighting the unique demands and rewards of each genre.

Throughout the episode, Lorna shares anecdotes and advice from her career. She emphasises the importance of collaboration, communication, and adaptability in the fast-paced world of theatre, and offers guidance for aspiring stage managers looking to break into the industry. Whether you're a theatre enthusiast, a professional in the performing arts, or simply someone who appreciates the magic of live entertainment, this episode of "The Five Minute Call" is a must-listen. You'll gain a newfound appreciation for the tireless work and dedication that goes into creating the unforgettable moments that keep audiences coming back to the theatre time and time again.

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Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Lorna: I was on my knees. It was one of the most shattering jobs I've ever done. If you give the clear [00:00:05] on the doors when they're not shut and the automation press go, the whole [00:00:10] thing just goes. London has one of the most [00:00:15] incredible theater seats. I defy anyone not To be excited to build a show from the [00:00:20] beginning is amazing, and to be part of that, to walk into a room where you have no idea what's [00:00:25] gonna happen and.

[00:00:26] Lorna: Six weeks later you've got a show. That's incredible. Today

[00:00:29] Claire: we're talking [00:00:30] to Lorna Cobbold, a company stage manager with nearly three decades of [00:00:35] experience in performing arts. Lorna has worked at every major [00:00:40] theatre you can possibly name and all around the world and worked with some amazing

[00:00:44] Lorna: [00:00:45] people. I mean we're there for the audience and that's what we're doing.

[00:00:48] Lorna: doing with telling a story for [00:00:50] people. I mean, if it wasn't for the audience, I mean, we might as well go home. If you can ever get to a [00:00:55] Sitzprobe, if anybody can talk you into a Sitzprobe, just go to one. And by [00:01:00] the interval, I was in tears. I mean, it was just heartbreaking. The atmosphere is [00:01:05] set and that's what music does to you.

[00:01:06] Lorna: And that's amazing.

[00:01:09] Oren: Hello [00:01:10] and welcome to the Five Minute Call. This is a podcast where we take a deep dive into the [00:01:15] stories of the people that make theatre

[00:01:16] Claire: happen. I think you'll really enjoy the conversation. We're all about [00:01:20] people's stories and how they came to be in the position they're in in the [00:01:25] theatre industry at the moment.

[00:01:26] Claire: Would you tell us where you started your journey with theatre? [00:01:30]

[00:01:30] Lorna: I started, I didn't know, what [00:01:35] stage management was, which is what I do. Do I need to tell you what I do? Yeah, that's probably a good [00:01:40] start. So, uh, I'm a, so I am a company [00:01:45] and stage manager and I went to a school that didn't do drama, [00:01:50] but you could do a bit of acting and I went and I directed a show, [00:01:55] um, at school and.

[00:01:58] Lorna: It won a prize and [00:02:00] I enjoyed it. Just rewind over

[00:02:01] Claire: that. What makes you want to get up and direct straight [00:02:05] away?

[00:02:05] Lorna: Um, because at 17 you can do anything. [00:02:10] And it was, I went to one of those schools that had houses [00:02:15] and there was an inter house drama competition and I was head of my house and [00:02:20] I think I was the only person in the sixth form in my house who'd [00:02:25] even done any, I'd done.

[00:02:27] Lorna: I did some Lambda acting. [00:02:30] Fortunately, not many people have seen that, so that's good. Um, but I did a bit of acting, [00:02:35] um, and somebody had to do it. And I, it was amazing. [00:02:40] I went off to Samuel French, which still existed back then, to find a [00:02:45] play. And somebody there must have said there's a box under [00:02:50] there for things to do with at school.

[00:02:52] Lorna: And I found a Willie Russell play, [00:02:55] um, which I should have remembered what it's called. And it was about, um, [00:03:00] A class and I think somebody's done something wrong and they had a kind of jury or [00:03:05] something Um, and being very practical which has lent me into the next [00:03:10] part of my job Um, it was set in a school so we could wear school uniform and I could [00:03:15] the set could be desks and as it was In a school.

[00:03:17] Lorna: I mean it was pretty [00:03:20] basic as to be able to put it on and The note I got [00:03:25] at the end was upstage centre is more, is better than downstage centre. [00:03:30] Uh, cause my lead was always front and centre. [00:03:35] Um, I didn't know about the, you know, Laurence Olivier. Spot back then. [00:03:40] Um, and I did that and I think I enjoyed it.

[00:03:42] Lorna: Um, and I wanted to go to art [00:03:45] school and I wanted to, um, maybe be a designer. I quite [00:03:50] like the idea of theater design, but I more like the idea of art school and that [00:03:55] sounded and to do a foundation and my friends were all at the art block and it was the nice place [00:04:00] to be at school. And my mom and dad said, you should probably get a degree.[00:04:05]

[00:04:05] Lorna: And then I thought, okay, well, what am I going to get a degree in? [00:04:10] Um, I had no idea. And I had a [00:04:15] teacher who said, why don't you do a drama degree? And that sounded like a good idea. [00:04:20] I liked plays and I'd done a bit of acting and I'd done this. Um, and then I [00:04:25] discovered to do a drama degree, you needed an English A level, which I wasn't doing.

[00:04:29] Lorna: So I swapped all my [00:04:30] A levels around and I did English in a year so I could do drama. Um, and I went to Manchester [00:04:35] to At Manchester, I met a man called Michael Holt. [00:04:40] Michael Holt is a, I say is, I hope [00:04:45] still is, he's a designer and he designed for Alan Aitbourne. Um, and he [00:04:50] was one of my tutors, and I designed a show at, [00:04:55] uh, Manchester, and it wasn't very good.

[00:04:57] Lorna: Um, and he said, [00:05:00] you'll never be a designer, but what you will be [00:05:05] is a very good stage manager. And because you have a way of talking to actors [00:05:10] and you have a way of explaining ideas, um, but you don't have the [00:05:15] imagination to be a designer. And I said, well, that sounds pretty great. What is [00:05:20] stage management?

[00:05:21] Lorna: No idea at all. Um, and I [00:05:25] carried on doing my degree and I thought I would become John Pilger and I wanted to make [00:05:30] documentaries that would change the world. And, um, [00:05:35] My first job out of university was in a PR firm and I absolutely loathed it. It was [00:05:40] just hideous. So I left and went to sell ice creams and programs at [00:05:45] the Royal Court Theatre.

[00:05:46] Lorna: And I was an usher there. And I said to Bo [00:05:50] Barton, who was the production manager there, who I think went on to run Lambda or RADA, [00:05:55] um, that I'd quite like to get into stage management. And [00:06:00] she gave me a work placement upstairs [00:06:05] at the Royal Court with a young director [00:06:10] who was just starting out at the Royal Court called Ian Rickson.

[00:06:13] Lorna: Who, ridiculously, I'm now [00:06:15] doing a show with. Uh, it was the first play of a new [00:06:20] playwright called Joe Penhall. Um, it was called Some Voices. [00:06:25] And It was my first sort of foray into, [00:06:30] um, theater and I was the work experience before that, [00:06:35] because back then to get a job, you needed an equity card. Cause I'm that old and you had to [00:06:40] have 13 weeks to get a job.

[00:06:42] Lorna: And Beau said, I can't give you a job cause you don't have a card and you [00:06:45] get into that catch 22. So before my work placement, I did the thing that [00:06:50] everybody tells you to do, and I wrote 50 letters. There used to be a book called contacts. [00:06:55] And in it, somebody went through for me and ticked all the people who would have equity [00:07:00] contracts.

[00:07:00] Lorna: And I sent 50 letters. And there was a woman who ran [00:07:05] a outdoor Shakespeare company back before everyone was doing it. [00:07:10] And she said that she would give me an equity contract, but she wouldn't pay me. [00:07:15] So I could get my leg. on the ladder, my foot on the ladder, my leg on the ladder, my foot on [00:07:20] the ladder. Um, and I drove a van and I put speakers [00:07:25] up outside and I took soaking wet costumes to the [00:07:30] laundrette in poor, where were we?

[00:07:33] Lorna: Plymouth. We played [00:07:35] outdoors in Plymouth. It was amazing. Um, we stayed in cool sand [00:07:40] and the sea wall, it was incredible, but it pissed with rain and they were all in, what were [00:07:45] we doing? Taming of the Shrew. Um, and they were all in. [00:07:50] And they all got soaking wet and I laundrette. Um, but I did [00:07:55] sort of, we went to the Isle of Wight, that was really cool.

[00:07:58] Lorna: And [00:08:00] Stourhead was quite creepy. So I was there and I got taught how to [00:08:05] cable. And I organised a few bits and pieces and I loaded a [00:08:10] van. And then I went off to the Royal Court. And I did this show for, [00:08:15] um, a stage manager who's called, um, Sheena Linden, and [00:08:20] throughout my career, people I've met have looked after me and Sheena was the first person to sort [00:08:25] of guide me through.

[00:08:25] Lorna: And to this day, I still do a lot of things that she told me. [00:08:30] Um, and I did. So I was work experience on that. And then. [00:08:35] I got, I'd sort of done a few interviews. I wasn't, [00:08:40] nothing really happening. Um, and the Nuffield, [00:08:45] which was still a producing rep theatre back then, [00:08:50] um, called and said, we need an ASM tomorrow.

[00:08:54] Lorna: [00:08:55] And I said, yes. And I got on a train and Southampton for three months and I [00:09:00] learned my trade. I learned how to prop. Um, I learned what propping was. I [00:09:05] learned what stage management was. I learned what paperwork was. I had brilliant people, a [00:09:10] friend to this day, an ASM with me who taught me, or [00:09:15] told me what I had to do, all the people around me, and I learnt.[00:09:20]

[00:09:21] Lorna: And then after that, I got a job as an ASM in Chichester. [00:09:25] We're doing the Hothouse with Harold Pinter in it. [00:09:30] And that took me to the Comedy Theatre eventually after a mini tour. And [00:09:35] weirdly, sitting here now, as I am at the Comedy Theatre, It's, uh, yeah, [00:09:40] it's been quite a journey. That sounds an

[00:09:42] Oren: incredible journey.

[00:09:43] Oren: And I, I just wanted to go [00:09:45] back and clarify, Some we have some young listeners. Yeah, I might not actually know what stage management [00:09:50] is Give us to explain. I know so this is what give us the the [00:09:55] cliff notes rundown of stage man.

[00:09:56] Lorna: So what does stage management do? We make sure that everything is [00:10:00] on stage, ready to go for the performance.

[00:10:03] Lorna: So an act, all an actor has to do is [00:10:05] walk on stage and act and everything is there set up for them, ready to go. That starts in [00:10:10] rehearsal. So in rehearsal, um, first day of rehearsal, [00:10:15] you have a script. Hopefully, not all the time, [00:10:20] but you have a script. Um, you go through the script and you write [00:10:25] down all the props you think.

[00:10:26] Lorna: Props being glasses, um, anything that anybody might [00:10:30] pick up, use, uh, furniture, and you get an idea of what you're going to need for [00:10:35] the show. You also have a model box, which the designer has [00:10:40] put together. And you look at the model box, and if the script says it's set in a, uh, 14th [00:10:45] century palazzo and you look at the model box and it's set in a travel lodge you know that [00:10:50] you've moved concepts and you look at your props list and go probably don't need the [00:10:55] chandelier and you look at the the model box and you [00:11:00] write down everything that's in it and you've then got an idea of what you need for the show [00:11:05] and then depending on where you're doing that show and what the budget is you either then go and find all [00:11:10] those things or you work with a props buyer and [00:11:15] your job then is for in the rehearsal room if the props buyer's given you your [00:11:20] restaurant in the travel lodge and the actor then in rehearsal says [00:11:25] i think i'll be eating breakfast you then go to the props bar and say we're gonna [00:11:30] it's gonna be breakfast so we need coffee jugs and we need this so you're kind of [00:11:35] the conduit from what's happening in the rehearsal [00:11:40] With the designer who'll tell you that the coffee mugs need to be this, or [00:11:45] And it's, you're sort of part of a team of people making the physical [00:11:50] production, I think.

[00:11:51] Lorna: That be a way of describing? So that's one side of it. Then the [00:11:55] other side of it is you're I suppose you're just supporting the actors [00:12:00] in what they need to do in a practical way. Um, [00:12:05] I use the word practical an awful lot, but I think we're the practical side of theatre. [00:12:10] But I do think we also have an understanding of story and, [00:12:15] and why certain things are chosen, or you might still Depending on [00:12:20] the, how your rehearsal room is working, you might have an opportunity to offer up ideas [00:12:25] of, do you think you'd have this at that point?

[00:12:27] Lorna: Or would you have a notebook? Or what would [00:12:30] that notebook be? And if you're doing something, I mean, I [00:12:35] start, I started having to prop. I, we didn't have prop buyers and I loved it. I'd [00:12:40] go to markets, I'd research things. I did a play once at the Old [00:12:45] Vic with Michael Pennington and I was the only member of stage management.

[00:12:48] Lorna: and he was playing Chekhov, [00:12:50] and I went to a Russian library to find the right [00:12:55] paperwork that Chekhov would have on his desk. You get to go to amazing places. [00:13:00] Um, did a play about a lawyer who was an MP, so I went to Parliament and looked at [00:13:05] lots of bits and pieces. I did a show at the Don [00:13:10] Mark or Frost Nixon.

[00:13:11] Lorna: And one of the scenes was as an aeroplane and I went off to a [00:13:15] salvage place in the back of beyond and found some BA seats in an old [00:13:20] burnt out aeroplane. And that's what you did. And it was, it was [00:13:25] amazing fun. It was great. These days, somebody else gets to do most of that fun and you sit in a rehearsal room and [00:13:30] just feed out and feed in the ideas.

[00:13:33] Lorna: And then I guess the other part of stage management is [00:13:35] on the night. of the play. Um, you set [00:13:40] everything up. You have huge checklists to make sure everything's there. And [00:13:45] once the curtain is up, and the play is on, you might have what we call cues. So [00:13:50] maybe an actor comes off, um, and you hand them something.

[00:13:53] Lorna: Or you shine a torch [00:13:55] so they don't walk into a wall. Or you, those sort of bits and pieces. And then there might be, [00:14:00] A scene change, and you might go on in the pitch dark, which I'm doing at the moment. [00:14:05] Trying not to fall off the front of the stage, moving things around. Um, or it might be old school and you [00:14:10] bring in this front cloth or something comes in, and then you all dive on behind it and you move everything around.[00:14:15]

[00:14:16] Lorna: And you change the scene. So that's sort of, I think that's [00:14:20] stage management. It's, yeah. I mean, if you tell

[00:14:22] Claire: us it's stage management, I'm going to believe you on it [00:14:25] because, because you've done it quite

[00:14:26] Lorna: a lot. Well, I mean, I've always made it up as I've [00:14:30] gone along, because I, nobody's ever really told me what it was, and I didn't spend, I didn't go [00:14:35] to drama school, and I didn't learn, I just learn on the job, and there's a lot of things I don't know, [00:14:40] so, um, I've had to pick it up, and I've made some classic mistakes, [00:14:45] because I never got, I think a lot of stage management courses, you get a bit of [00:14:50] technical stuff too, I mean, I thought a fairy light was a fairy light and I didn't understand [00:14:55] why you needed an operator for fairy lights.

[00:14:57] Lorna: Um, I've had people tell me that curtains are in, [00:15:00] you have curtains at home and you have drapes or I wore my [00:15:05] terminology and all of that I've just learnt and I'm not hugely technical. [00:15:10] Um, I don't know if that's something, but I've, but I've learnt what I need to know. [00:15:15] Um, and, and gone on from there. Just being quiet and watching and listening and seeing how it [00:15:20] works, um, I think is huge.

[00:15:23] Lorna: One of the best, one of my [00:15:25] first ever jobs, um, was a, it might have even been my [00:15:30] first ever job. I was an ASM on a, an opera. [00:15:35] at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and I'd never done it before, and I was [00:15:40] just sort of trying to find my way through. And it had a [00:15:45] really smart, the crew were from Glyndebourne, so they were all over it.

[00:15:48] Lorna: They were brilliant, [00:15:50] and you learn from everybody, and stage management and crew are like [00:15:55] that. One just has management in the title. It's the same kind of gig. [00:16:00] Um, and he said to me, the one thing. How did [00:16:05] he phrase it? There's nothing wrong with please and [00:16:10] It was just such a simple thing. Because everybody is working [00:16:15] together and if you think that word management in your title means that you're any better than that [00:16:20] guy who's been doing it for, you know, can move this to career in 20 minutes and [00:16:25] get it up and running, no.

[00:16:26] Lorna: And it's just a really good leveller. [00:16:30] The theatre is such a group of people all working together. Um, I thought [00:16:35] that was really good. That's just a great bit of early doors advice, [00:16:40] um, and yeah, I'm a watcher and a listener and I think particularly in, [00:16:45] so a rehearsal room has a very strange, [00:16:50] to learn how to be in a rehearsal room just takes sort of [00:16:55] experience and listening and sitting and when to move [00:17:00] and when to, I mean it sounds ridiculous, uh, there's so many people [00:17:05] pretending to be other people and telling stories but there is a sort of, um, [00:17:10] way of not breaking a moment if somebody's an actor's finding something [00:17:15] or a director's on a role or you, you don't want to be the person that breaks an idea [00:17:20] or, um, and I think you learn a lot of that from just watching [00:17:25] and listening.

[00:17:28] Lorna: You still enjoy

[00:17:29] Claire: [00:17:30] the storytelling?

[00:17:31] Lorna: Yeah, I do. Um, I've always been, I've [00:17:35] always asked for a script before I take a job. I mean, unless [00:17:40] it's Sure. [00:17:45] Um, but New Place, I quite like to, I love being sent a script and, and seeing how [00:17:50] we're going to do it. Have I ever turned down a job when I've read a script? No. No.[00:17:55]

[00:17:55] Lorna: Um, I have turned down, um, I was [00:18:00] offered to do, I mean, turning down work as a freelancer is insane. [00:18:05] I mean, insane, but, um, there are things that just don't float your boat [00:18:10] and you just know that you're not going to be very good at. And I think if you enjoy the story you're telling, [00:18:15] you're better at your job.

[00:18:16] Lorna: And I remember going, being asked if I would take [00:18:20] always forget its name. Sending the Clowns is the [00:18:25] musical. Night music. I was asked to do a little night music to bring it out of. [00:18:30] the Chocolate Factory and take it into the West End and I said categorically, no I'm not doing that. [00:18:35] I went to see it at the National and everybody loved it at the National and Judi Dench was singing and it was [00:18:40] amazing.

[00:18:40] Lorna: I was like, this is awful. Oh, why am I here? [00:18:45] And I'd taken my mum and dad and it was going to be this huge thing and we all sat there and went, oh god, what [00:18:50] is this? So when I was asked to do it, I went, yeah, no, sorry, it's not my thing. [00:18:55] Maybe I'm just one of those people who doesn't do Sondheim, I don't know.

[00:18:59] Lorna: The producer said, [00:19:00] you've got to go and see it at the chocolate factory. Just go and see it. And then you can tell me you're not going to do it. So I [00:19:05] went to see it. God, it was brilliant. It was so good. And [00:19:10] I took it into town and I got my mom and dad to come and see it. And they're like, Oh no, it's that thing we saw at the [00:19:15] national, isn't it?

[00:19:16] Lorna: No, no, you should just come, just come. And they talk about it to this day. It was great. [00:19:20] And what do you put that down to? The two different, uh, [00:19:25] different, uh, different interpretation of, [00:19:30] um, a piece. It's a different way of telling a story and one that [00:19:35] was, you could understand it, I guess, or, or actually hear the [00:19:40] lyrics I think is, So important with some time and maybe I hadn't [00:19:45] heard the lyrics and the original or I mean, it's hilarious Some of that [00:19:50] musical.

[00:19:50] Lorna: I mean, it's brilliant. You're clearly quite reverent about

[00:19:53] Claire: that You know listening [00:19:55] to you talk about how to be in a

[00:19:56] Lorna: rehearsal room now. Yes, I think I am [00:20:00] actually Yeah, I think oh, I think I have respect for actors. Yeah and [00:20:05] performers I think what they do is and how they put themselves out there [00:20:10] and I think I don't stand in front of all those people and pretend to be somebody else.[00:20:15]

[00:20:15] Lorna: I mean, for ent for our entertainment, or for our thoughts, or, [00:20:20] um, I think it's amazing what they do. Um, so I think you should [00:20:25] I mean, an element of reverence. Let's not go crazy here. [00:20:30] They're not And you like to think you might be [00:20:35] I think one of the Are you changing the world? Well, you might be [00:20:40] changing somebody's thought.

[00:20:41] Lorna: You might be making somebody's It's happier, sadder, might be giving [00:20:45] somebody to think about something. I think you have to think of it like that. [00:20:50] Um, but yes, I have, I have huge respect for what they do. So

[00:20:54] Claire: at some [00:20:55] point, and actually very quickly looking at your incredible resume here, it [00:21:00] changes slightly from stage management to company management, company [00:21:05] stage management.

[00:21:06] Lorna: Um, when I remember meeting my first company manager as [00:21:10] an ASM and I thought, God, that is a terrible job. You wouldn't want to do that. [00:21:15] I mean, here I am creating art and finding the right prop from the right [00:21:20] era. This is what it's all about. And that, and they, and standing in a dinner jacket, I [00:21:25] mean, company managers back then, dinner jacket, wandering around showing people.

[00:21:29] Lorna: And [00:21:30] I still worrying about radiators and people's dressing rooms. I was. [00:21:35] How dire. Um, I've been doing it for quite a long time. [00:21:40] I still worry about radiators as part of radiators cars. Yeah. Um, [00:21:45] uh, I, So again, going back to people who don't [00:21:50] know much about stage management, there are three, maybe four members of a stage management team.[00:21:55]

[00:21:55] Lorna: You're an ASM on a play. There's probably one of you on a large musical. There might be [00:22:00] four of you. There might be, I think there's a magic show that has nine. Um, [00:22:05] so you're the nuts and bolts, um, of making it happen. Then you have [00:22:10] a deputy stage manager who I have such admiration [00:22:15] for and all for, because I've done it and it's, I was.

[00:22:18] Lorna: Terrible. It's [00:22:20] just not my gig. Um, and the people who do that, and there are some killer [00:22:25] DSMs out there and, uh, they are essentially the captain of the ship. So [00:22:30] they sit and watch the show on a screen, [00:22:35] multiple cameras, depending on what, how big the show is and what's happening. They have the script in front [00:22:40] of them.

[00:22:40] Lorna: They have all the lighting cues, all the sound cues, uh, automation, whatever it [00:22:45] is. And they literally press go on the show and run it the whole way through. [00:22:50] The rest of us are in their hands. That's, you might be the stage [00:22:55] manager and technically above them, but the, but the DSM in my view, [00:23:00] runs that shit for you on a nightly basis.

[00:23:02] Lorna: And you kind of dip in and out when you're [00:23:05] needed. And should it all go pear shaped, you dive in, um, [00:23:10] and then you, and the stage manager is weirdly, [00:23:15] I guess, in the hierarchy above that, and they keep an eye on everything. Um, and they're usually eyes and ears [00:23:20] by that point, and you're on the deck just making sure that everything is smooth, running [00:23:25] smoothly.

[00:23:26] Lorna: On a play, you're pretty much doing very little. On a large musical, [00:23:30] you think of the great, huge shows with incredible stage managers who are watching. [00:23:35] What's the show, um, Huge automated pieces, Lord [00:23:40] of the Rings or something that these, all these things move around and things are flying in. Um, I [00:23:45] think the biggest show.

[00:23:46] Lorna: I was an ASM on [00:23:50] Showboat. It was one of my first ever big musicals. It was at the [00:23:55] Prince Edward, and it was a live event production. It'd come over from America, and it was huge. And we had, [00:24:00] we had cars flying in, and we had, well, we had the [00:24:05] boat. And then we had a street scene, and the whole, I mean, it was vast.

[00:24:09] Lorna: It was [00:24:10] vast. I caused it to stop a couple of times, but that's another story. Um, so [00:24:15] they keep an eye on all of that and they are everybody feet, the head of automation feeds into them and [00:24:20] everybody feeds into them. Um, and then you get a company manager who worries about [00:24:25] radiators and, um, looks after is the pastoral care, I guess.

[00:24:29] Lorna: [00:24:30] Um, but also generally does the payroll, uh, and, and [00:24:35] is really the line between it's a hard, it's quite hard. Because [00:24:40] you are, you're the company's representative to the producer, but you're [00:24:45] also the producer's representative to the company. So you have to sort of find [00:24:50] that middle ground where you're looking after both interests.[00:24:55]

[00:24:55] Lorna: And, but you're with the comp, despite it being a slightly office y role, [00:25:00] sort of, uh, in America they do it differently, over here you are at the theatre. [00:25:05] Whenever there's a show on. So you're the person that finds a plaster when that needs to [00:25:10] happen or You you just [00:25:15] try and you look after actors you look after the technical team You [00:25:20] you sort of I guess try and keep everything on track to net [00:25:25] and everybody in a reasonably good place [00:25:30] on a play, you combine the two roles of company and stage manager, because there's not a huge [00:25:35] amount of stage management to do, often.

[00:25:36] Lorna: I tried to be a DSM, because that's what you do after you, and I brought a [00:25:40] flying piece in on Michael Gambon's head. He was really polite about it, um, [00:25:45] but, um, he, yeah, he just sort of did, bent down a bit, um, [00:25:50] he was an absolute delight. I describe it as, if you, if you're a [00:25:55] DSM, you see in black and white, and if you're a company manager, company stage manager, you see in grey.

[00:25:59] Lorna: [00:26:00] So, you're a bit bigger picture, whereas you've got to be completely, [00:26:05] um, it's either right or wrong. Is there a lot of pressure to that? To being a DSM? [00:26:10] Yeah. Oh my god, it must heinous! Can you imagine calling something like, I don't know, [00:26:15] um, oh, New York on Spider Man. They had two DSMs, I think, because [00:26:20] there was one person just couldn't call it all.

[00:26:22] Lorna: Uh, what, Wicked you must be calling people who are [00:26:25] flying. Uh, Harry Potter, uh, I mean, you have to learn both shows. I think that's massive. [00:26:30] I think what, yeah, I mean, talk to, talk to a DSM. I don't know. Um, they might think it's [00:26:35] just run of the mill in the way that, you know, if somebody else is doing a job, um, [00:26:40] like a heart surgeon probably goes, I don't know, it's easy, but brain surgery, shit.

[00:26:43] Lorna: Takes a different set of [00:26:45] skills, right?

[00:26:46] Claire: And an ability not, not to be frightened that you're going to make a mistake. I would [00:26:50] imagine,

[00:26:50] Lorna: because as soon as you're frightened of that, It comes to, I think they always say, just keep [00:26:55] talking. If you're learning a book, which is learning to be a DSM, they just say, [00:27:00] and everything's written down.

[00:27:01] Lorna: So if it's all written down, you don't have to remember it, but you just have to [00:27:05] keep talking. If you go, oh no, shit, I fucked that, oh no, quick. Because it's just, [00:27:10] once the, once you've opened, once the curtain is up, it is not going to stop. [00:27:15]

[00:27:15] Oren: So this is a really interesting topic because [00:27:20] from the audience perspective you don't know when things are going wrong And yeah, you shouldn't really know when things are going on unless they've [00:27:25] gone really wrong So we know sort of what a good show looks like but what happens if something does go [00:27:30] wrong?

[00:27:30] Lorna: Well, I probably shouldn't admit this publicly, but I did cause Lion King to come to a grinding [00:27:35] halt Um, there is a and it probably doesn't it doesn't do this [00:27:40] anymore. I was on Lion King just after it opened So what are we talking 30 years ago? [00:27:45] It's just had its something. Um, and I went in as an ASM dep, [00:27:50] and I'm sure this queue doesn't exist anymore.

[00:27:52] Lorna: But in London, which I don't think it does on tour, [00:27:55] the wildebeest come up through the floor move fast, it gets trampled to death. So there was a [00:28:00] queue, isn't it? They used to be a queue. There are three lefts and you'd, [00:28:05] you're dressed in blacks. You're a. And you've got your headset on. 'cause you talk to everybody and they put [00:28:10] over a wildebeest sort of rug that goes over [00:28:15] you so that you can come up behind the wildebeest.

[00:28:19] Lorna: You're coming up to [00:28:20] the center of the stage behind the wildebeest as an a SM. [00:28:25] And before you come, you've got all, uh, your sub stage. So all the will to be slowed in. [00:28:30] And then three doors have to close. And the queue used to be to give the clear. [00:28:35] So, you give the clear to automation that all three [00:28:40] doors are closed.

[00:28:40] Lorna: Doors are closed, you're ready to move. You then come up behind the [00:28:45] wildebeest, and they're doing all their thing, and then you walk to the edge of the stage, and you [00:28:50] Unhook a flying piece. Uh, it's a, uh, hook up for a foy flying. [00:28:55] You then have to walk up these steps and come behind Simba, [00:29:00] hook him up, tap him to tell him he's hooked up, tell the [00:29:05] DSM on your headset that you're clear, and get off.

[00:29:09] Lorna: [00:29:10] I've had friends in, and it's so embarrassing, that thing I have to do, and they go, What thing? You know when the [00:29:15] wildebeest are doing the thing, and the, with the No, I didn't see you. What? But I Nobody sees you [00:29:20] doing it. Yeah, no. So you do that. If you give the [00:29:25] clear on the doors when they're not shut, and the automation press go, [00:29:30] the whole thing just goes And the front cloth comes in.

[00:29:34] Lorna: Ladies and [00:29:35] gentlemen, I'm terribly sorry, we're having technical difficulties. It's just me. Is this hypothetical, Lorna? [00:29:40] You're talking about hypothetical. If that were to happen, this is what would happen. Good God, what, [00:29:45] what's gone, what's happened? What's happened? Oh god, was it me? It's probably me. Oh, fuck.

[00:29:49] Lorna: It was me [00:29:50] And once it's [00:29:55] that shit happens Sorry, I probably shouldn't say it like that. No, it's

[00:29:59] Oren: great. It's [00:30:00] honest. What's the recovery?

[00:30:02] Lorna: Um, massive embarrassment. [00:30:05] Um, and huge, just, I'm really sorry. I just, [00:30:10] I thought it, people make mistakes. Yeah, yeah. And there [00:30:15] with the big musicals and a lot and big shows, your, your contingencies are so fast.[00:30:20]

[00:30:21] Lorna: Um, and we were up and running in two minutes. I mean, everyone goes, [00:30:25] okay, shut, right. Reload. Let's do the doors. Automation. Take it in. Yeah, I'm good. Everybody's set. Right. [00:30:30] We're going back to here. DSM. Who is going, right, we'll go from here. So they tell the band, [00:30:35] right, we're going to go from this bar. They tell the lighting.

[00:30:37] Lorna: I'm going to go from here. They tell Sam, we're going to go from here. They tell automation. We're going to go [00:30:40] from there. Everything's sharp. Bang. Let's do it again. Okay, here we go. And it all [00:30:45] starts and probably people will have noticed, but they will have forgotten [00:30:50] by the end. Oh yeah. Absolutely. Oh yeah.

[00:30:52] Lorna: Yeah. And again, depping on that show, I think it's one of the last [00:30:55] places that has that last Pride Rock comes out at the end. One time I was doing it [00:31:00] and it didn't happen. All the animals come on and it's a beautiful ending. Ah, isn't the music great? [00:31:05] I said to a friend, oh, it's just, you know, no Pride Rock now.[00:31:10]

[00:31:10] Lorna: If you don't know it's supposed to be there, it's fine. You can [00:31:15] get away with quite a lot. Yeah. So having

[00:31:18] Claire: told us that company [00:31:20] manager appeared to be the most boring job in the world, you nonetheless have

[00:31:24] Lorna: [00:31:25] done it for a long time. It's very rare that I'm just a company manager. [00:31:30] Um, I've done that twice. To build a show from the beginning is [00:31:35] amazing.

[00:31:35] Lorna: And to be part of that. Yeah. To walk into a room where you have no idea what's going to happen. [00:31:40] And six weeks later, you've got a show. That's incredible. And to be part of that. And as a company [00:31:45] manager, you are. Keep your feeding everything in and you're getting people to talk to each [00:31:50] other, which is a sort of element of the stage manager in it.

[00:31:53] Lorna: And then when the show [00:31:55] is up and running, yeah, see, I'm rarely just a company manager. So I've [00:32:00] sort of on the deck and I hear, I hear it and I see it. [00:32:05] And I like to walk out into the audience and at the beginning, um, and get an [00:32:10] idea of people excited. What's it feel like out there in the interval, all that kind of [00:32:15] stuff.

[00:32:15] Lorna: Um, I think you're just part of this amazing machine. [00:32:20] It took quite a few years before you

[00:32:22] Claire: moved from plays

[00:32:23] Lorna: into musical theatre. Yes. [00:32:25] But then you've

[00:32:25] Claire: done a lot of musical theatre. Yes. Um, could you talk to us about the [00:32:30] differences between the

[00:32:31] Lorna: two? One's better paid. [00:32:35] LAUGHTER Which was my initial move into musical theatre.

[00:32:38] Lorna: OK. Um, [00:32:40] uh, I had a lovely time putting on plays and they were great. I was [00:32:45] skint. Um, and the reason they pay more is because they're [00:32:50] much harder. Um, there are more people involved. Well, uh, [00:32:55] Generally, unless you're doing a sort of boutique Um, but there [00:33:00] are, you also have to look after, so one of the things a company manager does is [00:33:05] schedule.

[00:33:06] Lorna: Um, I quite like it. It's about sort of time [00:33:10] Tetris and who can do what, when, and you've got to, so on a musical, a company [00:33:15] manager probably spends most of their time trying to plan the next day because you have got wig [00:33:20] fittings, uh, costume fittings, somebody's being measured. a [00:33:25] vocal coach is coming in. Um, you need dialect maybe.

[00:33:29] Lorna: Uh, there might be [00:33:30] a fight. Um, the range of people who are [00:33:35] involved more often than not in a musical is pretty vast. So for every scene there is a [00:33:40] song and for every song there's probably a number, a dance. So [00:33:45] that's three disciplines that have to happen for one scene. So it's busier. [00:33:50] Um, it takes more, more organization.

[00:33:53] Lorna: You've got three directors you have to [00:33:55] look after. There's generally more people in it. [00:34:00] Um, and then you throw, once you've done all of that, then you throw in a band as [00:34:05] well on top of that. Um, And I'm not very musical. So it was a, quite a learning [00:34:10] curve for me to learn about bands and MDs. And so I, [00:34:15] and to learn orchestration, that was astonishing.

[00:34:18] Lorna: I mean, I [00:34:20] have been incredibly fortunate to be in a room with Bill Brown. Bill Brown [00:34:25] was, Oh, he was just this incredible. Man who [00:34:30] made movement, music into movement, movement into music. Um, [00:34:35] and I've watched him watch a rehearsal of an [00:34:40] actor, um, who was Barnum, doing a [00:34:45] number, and then he went away and put that, that actor's movements.[00:34:50]

[00:34:52] Lorna: I mean, the hair's on the back of your neck. I mean, it was [00:34:55] incredible to watch him work. Um, watch him, listen to him work, and he was a really nice man. [00:35:00] So to un and what I've enjoyed about musicals is learning more and more about the [00:35:05] music. I still don't know very much, and I still rely heavily on a DSM, who, [00:35:10] if they're on a musical, can probably read music.

[00:35:12] Lorna: And, I can hear if a If the [00:35:15] band's going a bit off, but they're, the DSM will go, Oh, that thing with the third bar with the yada [00:35:20] yada and be like, okay, yeah, I didn't really notice [00:35:25] that. But I can hear, you know, a flat tuba. [00:35:30] Um, and. Yeah, they're just bigger, generally, [00:35:35] because there are more people involved, because there are more disciplines involved.

[00:35:38] Lorna: And do you find that exciting? [00:35:40] Uh, yes and no. Um, do I find [00:35:45] Yes, I do. Well, I kind of like to do both. I'm just greedy that way. [00:35:50] Um, I love being in a room that's just all about words, and then, uh [00:35:55] Um, we did a sing through for cabaret at [00:36:00] the end of, I guess, the first two weeks. And you're in a room [00:36:05] with all these actors, just with a piano, and they sing through the whole [00:36:10] play.

[00:36:12] Lorna: And by the interval I was in tears. I mean, it was [00:36:15] just heartbreaking. Um, and that's what music does to you. And that's the way it is. [00:36:20] Amazing. Um, a Sitzprobe. If you can ever get to a [00:36:25] Sitzprobe, if anybody can talk you into a Sitzprobe, just go to one. [00:36:30] So, for our listeners, a Sitzprobe. If you're rehearsing a [00:36:35] musical, you generally only rehearse it with a piano in the room.[00:36:40]

[00:36:40] Lorna: Depending on what type of musical, you might have two pianos. Um, a [00:36:45] percussionist who gives you rhythm, uh, uh, all the choreographers want you to have a, but I've done [00:36:50] a lot where it's just a piano, but in the back of your mind, there's a 20 piece orchestra [00:36:55] or there's a 10, whoever they are, however big it is.

[00:36:59] Lorna: The [00:37:00] Sitzprobe is the first time you take all your actors into a room and they meet the band for the first time. [00:37:05] And they listen to you. to the show for the first time and the [00:37:10] actors are blown away by the artistry of the band. The band have [00:37:15] had their own rehearsals and then again if you go back to orchestration and you see an actor, [00:37:20] if you're lucky enough to work on a musical that's being orchestrated while you work on it, you see an [00:37:25] actor listen to their movement and that's Their face [00:37:30] just explodes.

[00:37:31] Lorna: Oh my god, or there is a [00:37:35] An ident of something in a in the way that a character said something and they've put it into the [00:37:40] music and it's just I mean It's incredible. It's a Rare moment. [00:37:45] I've cried like a baby and quite a lot of them. It was very tired and one of them But I [00:37:50] do remember the Les Mis 02 Sitzprobe that was [00:37:55] vast.

[00:37:55] Lorna: Were you there for that? It was my 25th anniversary one. 25th anniversary. We did [00:38:00] the, it was the three companies at the O2, and we were at three mils doing [00:38:05] a Sitzprobe. And I was on my knees. It was one of the most shattering jobs I've ever done. [00:38:10] And, But you always try and get to the sitzprobe, because it's the [00:38:15] best thing about a musical.

[00:38:16] Lorna: And at the end they did the four Valjeans, um, for the first [00:38:20] time. So Um, but other times you're just like, [00:38:25] you just want to get up and dance. I mean, it's amazing. And that, I think, is The brilliance of a musical. It's [00:38:30] just watching it all come together. That one's filmed

[00:38:32] Oren: as well, so

[00:38:33] Lorna: He's probably me in the corner, [00:38:35] weeping.

[00:38:37] Oren: You should go and check it out if they, uh Oh, they [00:38:40] videoed the sets? Yeah, yeah, it's videoed. It's on the, um, I think special edition of the DVD [00:38:45] release. Yeah.

[00:38:47] Lorna: I think I'm on that DVD. [00:38:50] Yeah. Yeah. Um, so I like doing both, [00:38:55] but one, generally you have to sign up longer for a musical because they run longer. The other [00:39:00] thing about them is that you often can't company stage manager musical because there's too [00:39:05] much happening on the deck.

[00:39:06] Lorna: Um, and I'm sort of been lucky with the [00:39:10] times that I have company. managed only, [00:39:15] have I been lucky? Some I've been lucky with. There have been other things that have kept me interested. So [00:39:20] Les Mis in Australia, Australia kept me interested, if you see what I mean, and moving [00:39:25] around. Um, yeah. But I, yeah, what I really [00:39:30] like is a new musical in a small space.

[00:39:32] Lorna: They're the ones that are very [00:39:35] exciting. I wondered

[00:39:36] Claire: if you feel like there's a, um, there's [00:39:40] opportunity for you to develop your own style as a stage manager or a company manager, [00:39:45] or a

[00:39:45] Lorna: company stage manager. Yes, I think there's definitely a way of having your [00:39:50] own style. Yes. Um, I mean, a stage manager's job is a stage [00:39:55] manager's job, but there is a way and a means of doing that.

[00:39:57] Lorna: Um, and there's a way and I mean, as in [00:40:00] any job of running a team and being a manager, um, and you can do that [00:40:05] very different ways. Um, so yes, I think, It's absolutely [00:40:10] open to who you are and how you want to deal with it. Um, and you can bring your own [00:40:15] way of managing people or running [00:40:20] things. And was there a

[00:40:21] Claire: moment during your career where you became aware of your

[00:40:24] Lorna: own style?[00:40:25]

[00:40:28] Lorna: No, I have no idea how people [00:40:30] perceive me. I really don't. I mean, they do occasionally say, Oh, well, yeah, you're not on the fence about [00:40:35] that one, are you? I'm quite honest. Um, and I'm quite [00:40:40] vocal, I suppose. Um, and. [00:40:45] If people are being kind, they say, Oh, great job. Thank you. Or you did that really well. Or so [00:40:50] you, but I, I don't really know [00:40:55] what I try and do if I'm running a tech, which I really enjoy.

[00:40:59] Lorna: Do I need to [00:41:00] explain that for the listener? Yep.[00:41:05]

[00:41:05] Lorna: So we've gone from the rehearsal room. We've had a SITS probe, [00:41:10] uh, or we haven't, if it's a play and the tech. It's the first time the actors [00:41:15] stand on the physical set and the lighting designer and the sound designer [00:41:20] and all the video people, or whoever it is, get to make the show together. [00:41:25] And the person who runs that tech, in this country, is the stage manager.

[00:41:29] Lorna: [00:41:30] And it's your responsibility, with the DSM, to [00:41:35] gather all the information that you need. The DSM needs to run the [00:41:40] show. Um, so they're essentially doing most of the work, but you're the one on stage [00:41:45] moving it along, uh, waiting. The lighting designer will [00:41:50] be lighting a scene. You just want to go into the next scene.

[00:41:53] Lorna: You just need to get through it, but it's a [00:41:55] way of managing an awful lot of people and time and the actors who get really [00:42:00] bored. Cause it's not about them. Um, and. To [00:42:05] put the physical elements together. So if I run a tech, I, I try [00:42:10] and keep it reasonably jolly. I use the word jolly a lot, but it's, you know, [00:42:15] we're lighting.

[00:42:16] Lorna: It can be quite boring for everybody. It can be [00:42:20] frustrating. Um, sometimes you're waiting for really technical programming to [00:42:25] happen. Can we change it by a millimetre? Can it come in a bit less? Can it go out a bit more? It's not [00:42:30] working. Why isn't it working? Can we do that on that different beat? I'm going to have to add some [00:42:35] It's that sort of recipe melting pot thing that can be a bit [00:42:40] So, you just need to keep an energy in the room, I suppose.

[00:42:44] Lorna: [00:42:45] Um, I think I try and do that. I think I do have a style. [00:42:50] But I'm not sure I could explain it to you. I think somebody else would have to, I

[00:42:54] Oren: [00:42:55] think natural just by the

[00:42:56] Lorna: way you do things. I think some of it, I've [00:43:00] been doing it a long time. I think the brilliance of being an ASM and I was an ASM for a long [00:43:05] time is that you watch a stage manager.

[00:43:07] Lorna: So once you become a DSM, you're the only [00:43:10] DSM on a show. So how do you learn what other DSMs do? So when people [00:43:15] are really desperate to stop being ASMs, I say, listen, just. Use [00:43:20] it to learn what other people do and see their skills. And I've had some great [00:43:25] stage managers and I've had some great people to watch.

[00:43:27] Lorna: And I've had some incredible company managers. [00:43:30] Um, and I've learned from them. Um, [00:43:35] and I think that's really important. I [00:43:40] certainly think you have a style having worked with you. [00:43:45] And it's a

[00:43:45] Claire: rather magical combination of [00:43:50] extreme efficiency and practicality. and a bucket of [00:43:55] heart and instinct. I think your instinct, certainly when we've worked together [00:44:00] with performers to support them, your instinct, you say you don't know anything about [00:44:05] music, but actually your instinct

[00:44:06] Lorna: about the singer is.

[00:44:09] Lorna: And I think that [00:44:10] certainly watching from my viewpoint of it is, [00:44:15] is

[00:44:15] Claire: a

[00:44:16] Lorna: really unique style. It's not very many people. I [00:44:20] think you also learn, don't you, to how you watch people do what they do. [00:44:25] Um, and I would say probably if you talk to the company, my first [00:44:30] ever musical theatre company where we met, Um, Les Mis 25th [00:44:35] anniversary tour, and you spoke to them and then you spoke to, let's say, the company of [00:44:40] Rock Follies from this summer or Cabaret.

[00:44:42] Lorna: They might have completely different ideas [00:44:45] because it's, what, 20 years later. I think I have listened to people like [00:44:50] you. I've listened to musical directors. Um, I've listened to musicians. I've listened [00:44:55] to singers. Um, I learned [00:45:00] something on every job. Um, and so [00:45:05] guess instinct and learning come together a bit, I think.

[00:45:09] Lorna: Um, [00:45:10] and you also grow in confidence as you get older [00:45:15] in expressing what or talking to people and asking why and how. [00:45:20] And then again, experience, you see how some roles affect people. [00:45:25] So if it affects that person doing that role, maybe in this musical, musical. It's also [00:45:30] a thing. Um, yeah. Um, and I, [00:45:35] and I hope I bring a slight element of humor to it.

[00:45:39] Lorna: [00:45:40] Otherwise it all sounds frightfully earnest and a bit dull. But maybe [00:45:45] not. Maybe I just think I'm funny. But yeah, I think if [00:45:50] you're, if you've got somebody who is, I [00:45:55] suppose that's the other thing, the other big difference is that an [00:46:00] actor doesn't have to sing. So an actor might lose their [00:46:05] voice or get ill or have a chest infection or, but there is more often [00:46:10] a way of fighting through that.

[00:46:13] Lorna: When a singer loses their [00:46:15] voice, they feel like they're losing their very being and trying to put [00:46:20] that person back together, um, and remind them that Well, [00:46:25] I always say, it's like you've twisted your ankle, it's just, it's a, [00:46:30] you haven't lost your resondetra and sometimes you just have to [00:46:35] put ice on it and put your foot up and you're doing the same thing.

[00:46:38] Lorna: But it's taken a long time to be able [00:46:40] to say that to somebody or, or, or to consider that [00:46:45] might be helpful or, and, yeah I think that's experience. But [00:46:50] you just, I mean, You talk to a lot of people and they, you just [00:46:55] learn a bit every day. What's next?

[00:46:59] Oren: If [00:47:00] you're allowed to

[00:47:00] Lorna: talk about it. What's next for me? Um, so I am going back to the musical world [00:47:05] I've just spent, or I am now.

[00:47:08] Lorna: Another great part of my job, [00:47:10] um, is I get to work on new writing. And this year, I've done three new [00:47:15] things. Um, two plays and a musical. Um, again, [00:47:20] hugely lucky to be able to fit in a musical in a year, um, between. So, [00:47:25] um, so I'm now doing a play, new writing, loving it, great team of [00:47:30] people. And then at the end of January, I fly to New York to help put on cabaret and Broadway.[00:47:35]

[00:47:36] Lorna: Which is pretty exciting. How does that feel? It's pretty [00:47:40] exciting. I mean, I'm hugely lucky in that I've put on a show in New York before, but in Brooklyn. [00:47:45] And it's a very different experience. style and way of doing things and I think, [00:47:50] but they were used to English companies being there, [00:47:55] but I think to be in a West, um, sorry, a Broadway house on [00:48:00] Broadway will be, I think it will be fascinating [00:48:05] because they do things so differently.

[00:48:08] Lorna: Um, [00:48:10] and I'm always, I think London is, has one of the most [00:48:15] incredible theatre scenes. And the amount of new stuff we do, or the [00:48:20] old shows that still keep running and are still good to see. And, [00:48:25] um, I think we're so lucky, national. Um, and I don't [00:48:30] know enough about American theatre, but So it will be [00:48:35] amazing to be out there and see what's there and what's on and probably won't be able to see any of that because I'll be working but, [00:48:40] but, and how they do things very differently.

[00:48:44] Lorna: [00:48:45] And you don't find that intimidating? No, I [00:48:50] probably, I probably find it irritating while I'm in England. Having [00:48:55] worked with some American companies who've come here, we work much [00:49:00] quicker, we're way more on the fly here, we're not so unionised [00:49:05] so we can cross pollinate with different departments doing different things, [00:49:10] so it all moves at quite a great rate, which I'm told in America everything [00:49:15] is a lot slower.

[00:49:16] Lorna: Um, and there is [00:49:20] less cross departmental. There is no cross departmental. [00:49:25] Um, and different people do different things. So I think it will be interesting to see. Something like Cabaret [00:49:30] just requires this mixture of front of house people [00:49:35] doing a bit of this, and then the cast doing a bit of that, and then there's [00:49:40] the prologue, and then there's the back, and it's all, I mean it's just great, kind of.[00:49:45]

[00:49:45] Lorna: world. Different people doing their thing to make one thing brilliant. [00:49:50] And I wonder, it'll be interesting to see how we can do that in America. Are you [00:49:55] preparing a mental strategy for that? No, I'm buying thermals. Um, [00:50:00] uh, am I provide? No, I think you just have to, well, you can't do it like you [00:50:05] want to do it.

[00:50:06] Lorna: I mean, that's with anything, isn't it? I mean, if you're going to, [00:50:10] to arrive and go, well, you should do it like this. I mean, we did it like this. I mean, why are you doing like this? [00:50:15] Um, to anything in any job when you're taking something over or putting on. So I think you just have to go with, this [00:50:20] is sort of what we're aiming for.

[00:50:21] Lorna: How do we get there? Um, and this is what [00:50:25] we're trying to achieve. And this is what's exciting about it. This is what we hope you'll find exciting about [00:50:30] it. Um, and just, I think it, and you just have to be. [00:50:35] patient and see how other people do things. I mean, I've, again, been [00:50:40] incredibly lucky and put on shows in Japan and Brazil [00:50:45] and you just, just need to be there as a, you're just trying to get [00:50:50] to the right place, I think, [00:50:55] and just get the strands together, I suppose.

[00:50:59] Lorna: First of [00:51:00] all,

[00:51:00] Oren: yeah, thank you so very much for being here. This has been really amazing, really insightful, I think, to a lot [00:51:05] of people and just another aspect of the industry that [00:51:10] Is that we can shed light on, which I think is really cool. We have a couple [00:51:15] of traditions. We would very much like to know what your five minute call [00:51:20] routine is.

[00:51:20] Oren: What do you do at your, at your five minute call? I [00:51:25] think, I think we know the answer.

[00:51:25] Lorna: Yeah. Um, [00:51:30] well by then I've pro so as a company manager, I go around every dressing room, [00:51:35] um, to say hello. Most people I will have seen if there's a group [00:51:40] warm up, uh, so during the [00:51:45] half, and I, I suppose actually this isn't an answer because I try and get it done by the five, [00:51:50] but I make sure I see everybody every day.

[00:51:52] Lorna: Um, even if it's, hey, [00:51:55] how you doing? Generally, people will go, I'll always ask, are you under control? [00:52:00] Um, it's just my thing. Um, and I will do that. [00:52:05] And. That's when you catch up with people that you might not have seen, see how their day is, [00:52:10] that kind of. So that's generally my half. By the [00:52:15] five, again depending on if I'm a stage manager or not, I'm [00:52:20] probably putting on black clothes.

[00:52:23] Lorna: I'm finding a headset, [00:52:25] wondering if the battery's run out. At the moment I have to put on two headsets because one is [00:52:30] for the front of house, so I'm balancing that. Um, and [00:52:35] then I forget to put my torch on. Um, So I get kitted up. [00:52:40] I wear a torch around my neck and two headsets. Do you get in your Batman suit?

[00:52:44] Lorna: [00:52:45] I get into mine and then I'm ready to go and if I'm covering a plot I look for a bit of paper that has my cues [00:52:50] on it, um, and then I try and remember what I'm gonna do. And then I [00:52:55] head out. If I'm a company manager, uh, in the five, I'm often out front because I like to see the audience come in, [00:53:00] um, and see the house filling up.

[00:53:03] Lorna: And you [00:53:05] just hear the sort of buzz and people occasionally say things and you think, yeah, okay, that's good. [00:53:10] Um, or I just, I don't know. Otherwise I could be doing performance art. I mean, [00:53:15] we're there for the audience. Yeah. I mean, that's what we're doing. We're telling a story for people. [00:53:20] I mean, if it wasn't for the audience, we might as well go home.

[00:53:23] Lorna: Um, so it's quite [00:53:25] nice to be amongst them. And sometimes I come back and go, Oh yeah, I think they're really buzzing [00:53:30] tonight or Because again, for the actors, um, we have a [00:53:35] show relay so you can hear what's happening on stage in your dressing room. And some [00:53:40] theatres just leave it switched off until the show starts.

[00:53:43] Lorna: But you'll have some actors who'll always [00:53:45] say, Can we have it on the half? Because then you can hear the house fill up. Um, and you can hear that. That's the [00:53:50] best thing about Cabaret when we first, um, started. It [00:53:55] was quite close to COVID. And downstairs at Cabaret has tables. And [00:54:00] very cunningly, you can hear the tinkle of glassware.

[00:54:04] Lorna: And the, uh, [00:54:05] and of a restaurant. and Nick Lidster, [00:54:10] genius, but you walk in and there's these twinkling lights and you [00:54:15] cannot, I defy anyone not to be excited. It's just, the [00:54:20] atmosphere is set and it's just, it's a beautiful bit of theatre [00:54:25] even before you've got to the theatre. Um, so yes, in the five, [00:54:30] might be up front, probably getting ready for the show, um, [00:54:35] hopefully not dealing with some heinous disaster that has just [00:54:40] materialized and the lighting board's gone down, somebody's twisted their ankle, they [00:54:45] can't find their costume, hopefully not doing any of that.

[00:54:48] Oren: Very cool. [00:54:50] So one of the other things that we do on this podcast is we get The guest previous to [00:54:55] write a question for the current guest, and it is completely unknown to all of

[00:54:59] Claire: [00:55:00] us. Is there a specific reason that you decided to make musical theatre your [00:55:05] career, and do you think it's been a

[00:55:08] Lorna: good choice?

[00:55:09] Lorna: Um, [00:55:10] to quantify, I haven't made musical theatre my career choice, because that [00:55:15] would be a disaster for me. Um, [00:55:20] do I, so I will just, do I think choosing musical A life [00:55:25] backstage in theatre has been a good career choice. Um, there are, [00:55:30] I think like any career, Well, I [00:55:35] think it's not a, does it say career or does it say, uh, yes.

[00:55:39] Lorna: So I don't [00:55:40] think what we do is a career. I think it's a life choice. Um, [00:55:45] because it's very hard to switch off. You don't really do it between certain hours. [00:55:50] Um, well you can, but not if you're being a company manager. Um, I've only [00:55:55] recently, quite recently learned that you can put do not disturb on your phone at night.

[00:55:58] Lorna: It's brilliant. And I think if [00:56:00] you are making a career. That life choice, um, [00:56:05] you, you only get one day off a week. And [00:56:10] particularly if you're in musical theatre. But in musical theatre you can book holidays. That's what a long running show does. [00:56:15] Um, you're freelance. You never quite know what's going to happen next.[00:56:20]

[00:56:20] Lorna: You're only as good as your last job. Um, I think you, I just sort of, um, [00:56:25] you're going to miss the odd wedding. Um, as you, but I [00:56:30] think it's changing. I think in the years that I'm doing this, I think it's changing. And You can [00:56:35] put life a bit more into the job. Um, [00:56:40] I must really enjoy it [00:56:45] because I'm still doing it.

[00:56:47] Lorna: And I think the, the, the big, [00:56:50] I'll also say that everybody I know in stage management sits around and works out how to get out of it. [00:56:55] That's a thing. You put a bunch of company managers in a room with a glass of wine, they all try and tell you how they're going to [00:57:00] stop doing it, what their exit strategy is, and yet they're all still there planning it.

[00:57:04] Lorna: [00:57:05] Um, wow, that's so hard. Yeah. That's for justifying your life [00:57:10] on a Monday afternoon. I can't do that. We've had

[00:57:13] Oren: some really, really [00:57:15] hard hitting

[00:57:15] Lorna: questions. Yeah, I just, I'm not sure I can do that. That's okay. I've had [00:57:20] some really great times. I've met some really great people. I've put on some fantastic [00:57:25] shows.

[00:57:25] Lorna: I've travelled the world. Um, I'm solvent. [00:57:30] Um, And I'm still doing it. On balance. On balance. I'd say [00:57:35] it was probably a good idea. Very good. Also, I have no other idea of what I would have done [00:57:40] otherwise. But again, also, for anybody out there who's [00:57:45] going to get into this, you make one choice just to try, [00:57:50] and then you'll get another choice.

[00:57:52] Lorna: There's no fixed way of doing this. [00:57:55] Something will come, and if you want to do it, do it. If you think you can do [00:58:00] it, do it. If you think you can't do it, have a go. Uh, but it just comes at you. [00:58:05] If you realise you don't like it, then just stop doing it, because it can be really hot. Fantastic advice. [00:58:10] Really

[00:58:10] Oren: good

[00:58:11] Lorna: advice.

[00:58:11] Lorna: Brilliant. so much. No worries. Thank you. We'll give you the [00:58:15] book. God, I'm going to come up with a real corker for some person. Give us a [00:58:20] real bag. Yeah, it's Monday afternoon. Justify yourself! Thank

[00:58:24] Claire: you so [00:58:25] much for watching our episode today. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe so that you won't miss an [00:58:30] episode in the future.

[00:58:30] Oren: If you currently are or have been affected by any of the topics discussed in this [00:58:35] episode, please see the show notes below for some helpful [00:58:40] resources.


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