Nichole Sarra talks to the team behind the scenes at the Torch Theatre:
CREATING a 12-foot teddy bear and a kitchen fit for a dame – it’s all in a day’s work for the Torch workshop team who create all the sets for the Milford Haven theatre company’s shows.
A former member of the Torch youth theatre, Jamie Fitzgerald has worked for the theatre for the past six years and is now workshop manager.
“For me it is a very special place to work. No show is ever the same – it’s about facilitating the ideas of the designer and director, problem solving.”
The Torch is one of only three producing theatres in the whole of Wales.
Jamie said: “Producing our own shows is one of the aspects of the Torch that make us unique – every element of our own shows is produced in-house. This gives us greater artistic control and I would argue a better end product.
“Every set we build has its own challenges and problems to be solved, indeed this is one of the best things about my job – having hurdles to overcome and to creatively think around means that my job never becomes stale,” he said.
Jamie’s favourite set build to date was last year’s magical pantomime set for Christmas Cuckoos Cooking, set in an attic.
“For a set builder it was about as varied a job as they come, from giant brasso tins to 12-foot high teddy bears.
“Each set is different and special in its own way and the true measure of a set is if it works harmoniously with all the other elements of the play. From the costume to the lighting, and the script to the performers, everyone backstage has a part to play in creating the final show.”
The team usually has a four to five-week turn around from the start of a production to the opening night. This often involves long hours and a frantic working environment, but Jamie said the production staff are passionate about what they do and it is an atmosphere that many of them thrive on.
This year’s production is Artistic Director Peter Doran’s take on the classic tale Dick Whittington.
Jamie said “For Dick Whittington, we needed to display a variety of locations in a relatively short amount of time.
“Traditional theatre would have used a series of painted back cloths. This I feel can give a flat feeling to a stage with no depth.
“Rather than a naturalistic set we have various stylized set pieces to create the mood or the feeling of a scene. This creates challenges as each scene needs to be struck quickly and quietly and the next scene set up in a very short amount of time.
“Last year’s production was very static, this year’s requires more people to operate it. By having a 3D set we give the lighting designer more to work with. I personally like the boat scene best as I think it is the most visually impressive, but each scene has its own charm.”
Jamie, from Milford Haven, said the workshop attempts to source all materials as locally as possible including wood from Talbot Timber and steel from Milford Steel Works.
“We also do try and recycle as much as we can and reuse anything we can onto the next show,” he said.
Peter Doran said: “The great thing about the Torch is being a producing theatre; we’re one of only three in Wales so we are fairly unique. Producing a show isn’t simply putting a play on stage, it’s a very long creative process and involves a great number of people.
“Having our own workshop means that we have a creative hub working from within the Torch; the production therefore can grow organically. We have the capacity to change things as things change in rehearsal; the scenic carpenters and scenic artists are ready and available to develop any idea that might come through the rehearsal process. It’s very exciting having the imput of so many creative and talented people.”