As the company add the finishing touches to Under A Cardboard Sea ahead of its 4 Aug debut, we caught up on all the latest with Assistant Stage Manager Dale Thrupp.
Hi! My name is Dale Thrupp and I am working on this summer’s Young Company show as Assistant Stage Manager. I’ve been working for the Outreach department on various projects since graduating from the ‘Made In Bristol’ program last year as part of Propolis Theatre. Before that, I was a member of Bristol Old Vic Young Company, performing in several shows as an actor. Under A Cardboard Sea marks the second time I’ve worked as part of the Stage Management team for a Bristol Old Vic show, having previously Stage Managed and performed in Spill last year.
For those who don’t know, a Stage Manager is someone who organises and coordinates the different facets of a show. This can involve liaising and leading communication between all of the different departments and team members, sourcing props, maintaining the company’s well-being and running pretty much all of the backstage aspects needed to run the show. It sounds like a lot and, if I’m honest, it really is. Thankfully though, on this show there are 3 of us working together. Rosie Giarratana is the Stage Manager, Debs Machin is the Deputy Stage Manager and I’m the Assistant Stage Manager.
I’ve been in rehearsals pretty much from when we started back in January. During the first few months I was in the room devising alongside the cast. That’s not something a member of the Stage Management team usually does, but the directors and writer wanted as much creative input they could get and, as I’ve been a performer on previous Young Company shows, they were happy for me to join in.
Around April/May time the script was starting to take shape so I started doing more and more of the backstage work needed for the show. Rosie joined us full-time around June, just as things were beginning to get busy, and Debs came on-board at the beginning of this week, just as intensive rehearsals started. Working alongside Rosie and Debs, who are both freelance professional Stage Managers, has been amazing. Rosie has been so patient and kind to me throughout the months of rehearsals. She has taken time to not only teach me how to do a lot of things she usually does, such as create a blocking/prompt book or complete a floor mark-up etc. but she then allowed me to actually go and do those things for the show. It’s meant that I’ve learnt an incredible amount about the role and at the same time have a feeling of accomplishment, that I’ve really contributed to this show despite not having a single moment actually onstage.
The cast have been great to work with; they have so much energy and creativity. The sheer number of young people involved, (around 100 cast members aged 4-23) is astonishing; however it has been really tough managing them in rehearsals. Keeping track of who is in each scene, who they play in that scene and what they are doing has been a massive task. Once we had a draft of the script and began blocking the show, we created a casting sheet with every cast members name and the title of each scene. It has been my job to constantly update and change the spreadsheet, through multiple script changes and reworking’s of blocking so that everyone has something they can revert to if they forget or are confused.
Every single character in the play is so well rounded and thought out. One character which I really love is Michael King, the protagonist’s father. It’s already played brilliantly by George Descaillaux, but if I could choose any role I’d like it to be this one. Michael King is a gentle and entertaining man whose love of sharing knowledge with his children unfortunately outweighs his own understanding of the world. He resorts to outlandish stories and ideas of how things work but at his core there is a kindheartedness which is really appealing about the character. It’s his eccentric facts and notions which set the events of the play in motion but to understand just how that happens you’ll have to come and see the show.
Under A Cardboard Sea, I think, really showcases how invaluable the work the Outreach team do actually is for young people who want to work in or experience the performing arts industry. This show has pulled together nearly 100 performers and musicians from around the city, who’ve been given the chance to perform at one of the best theatres in the country, working alongside the professionals based here. They’ve made friends they would never have otherwise met and I have witnessed first-hand the increase in confidence in every single one of them. They are so much more willing to speak their own mind, think creatively and express themselves which can only benefit them whatever they choose to do. The fact that there are members from 3 different years of either past or present Made In Bristol, working on the show (as Associate Director, Assistant Composer, Assistant Designer, Assistant Stage Manager and even as performers) is proof that Young Company and ‘Made In Bristol’ really is helping to form the next generation of theatre makers, something I myself am entirely grateful for.
Photography by Paul Blakemore and Jack Offord.