Leaving London and finding work within the theatre circle of Brighton is not easy. Brighton has its doors tightly shut and it takes dogged perseverance to break into it.
I left my job in the West End thinking it would be fairly easy. After all, I’d been in the business for years and knew my stuff. Right? Jobs are few and far between and one has to build a reputation from the ground up. Again. It doesn’t matter how good your CV or website is, you have to physically prove your worth. And be good at your craft.
I started by doing volunteer work at Gladrags Community Costume Hire in Moulsecoomb. I thought it was a good way not only to help with a company making a difference within the community, but also a way of meeting people. I took my business cards with me every time I worked there and eventually met someone who needed a dresser to help on a show. One brick removed.
Every six months or so The Dome recruits new casual technical staff on zero hour contracts. Having a history not only of wardrobe but also stage management, they hired me because I had the skill set they needed. Working there has enabled me to learn lighting and sound to a degree I never thought possible.
I delivered several CV’s to the stage door of the Theatre Royal before I was called one day as they were short someone to work the fly floor on a play. And I finally got my foot through the door there.
I have a background in performance having trained in dance and a long and varied career as a performer spanning cabaret, West End, film and TV. I have a working knowledge of Italian and Spanish having lived and worked in both countries; I’ve choreographed, directed, assisted (both choreographically and directorially), production managed, stage managed, operated automation, been a wardrobe assistant and a stage crew charge hand. This insane volume of work has meant I’ve been able to turn my hand to anything but still I find I’ve had to prove myself as I’m an unknown quantity. I don’t think one can ever sustain a career here if one does not have several hats to wear.
Once in these bastions of Brighton, you find some of the best technicians around. Most have degrees in their given field or years of experience, but to a person, they all have more than one string to their bows. And they all freelance too.
It’s taken three years so far to get to where I am and it’s not been an easy ride, but it’s been worth it. Several times The Dome has been asked to recommend a freelance stage manager for independent shows booked and my name is the one put forward. I still carry my business cards with me every day, still introduce myself to people I meet along the way, still think of new ways to find work. Eventually I want to get back in to dance in some way, as a mentor, facilitator or dance development/administration.
I’d recommend anyone leave London and start anew but don’t think you’ll walk straight in to work. Be prepared to knock on a lot of doors, graft and prove your worth. People soon realise if you don’t know your stuff so don’t rely on bullshit. Be honest and say when you don’t know.