Have you ever wondered about the stories of our lovely staff? Here, we’re treated to ‘a day in the life of an usher’ by our brilliant Front of House team’s Zoe Hatziantoniou.
When I talk to my friends and family about Bristol Old Vic and how much I look forward to each show and the patrons I meet, they share same enthusiasm as me. But, in truth, this Theatre means a lot more to me than I can express.
At the start of my shift I enter through Stage Door and greet Robin, our Stage Door Receptionist, and head straight to the Duty Manager’s office where Andrew Stocker, who’s on-duty that evening, is waiting for me. Here we exchange one of our established traditions. He knows that if I’m working one of his shifts, we’ll make fun of my need for a fleece – because I get cold so easily. Our catch phrase: “Fleece, please” is accompanied with an upward turn of the wrist, in a very dramatic way. It’s a greeting he always expects, and we never forget to say it to each other.
As I walk back along the corridor to clock in, one of the funniest moments in my time working here hits me… It was the first time that I ushered Junkyard from Pit Door 1. I was sitting in my usher seat when, about 10 minutes into the show, a woman entered. She waited on the steps for a moment so, thinking she was a patron, I started to get up and help her to her seat. Before I knew it she rushed up the steps and was immediately greeted with spotlights and the whole auditorium was looking at her as she walked to the stage. It turns out she was one of the actors, so I’m glad I stopped myself in that moment and didn’t ask to check her ticket.
After clocking in, I stop at our Backstage Bar and arrange show programmes for my team before making my way to the Dress Circle for our Duty Manager briefing. This involves talking through all the latecomer points during the show and actors who may enter or use any of the Theatre levels during the show, all while we make our last minute preparations and put in our radio earpieces.
Once the briefing is over, we head to our assigned level to make sure it’s clear and ready for the evening’s patrons. As soon as we’ve done our checks, we’ll sit at wait in one of the rows overlooking the stage and wait to hear the Duty Manager announce: “House open”!
As patrons make their way in, we check their tickets to make sure they’re on the right level and replace any glass with plastic cups. It’s at this point that I often hear people commenting about the Theatre’s ongoing redevelopment and I’m just as excited as they are to see how the place is going to be in a year’s time. Once everyone is in, we then wait to hear that the House is clear and take our seat.
Lights usually go dim as the story begins and, during this time, we’ll be on alert for any radio messages about latecomers while we keep our diligent eyes on the house.
I didn’t realise how much I’d come to love this job in the time it’s been since I applied. I still remember my interview with Liz Hebden, our Front of House Manager, sat on the sofas in our old foyer by the big Georgian windows that overlook King Street. I was talking fast, telling her about all the books I had read on Stanislavski and how much I wanted to work for Bristol Old Vic. In hindsight, talking about acting theories and literature might have been a little over the top, but it was genuine and something I’m so passionate about.
My mind is taken to some funny places whenever someone asks me about the Theatre, mostly to Andrew and the fondness of our catchphrase and ‘almost asking an actor for their ticket’, but it’s the conversations with our actors, our patrons and so many others that makes Bristol Old Vic a very special place.