Backstage at The National Theatre
Level 3 Technical Theatre student, Emilia Stoddart, shares her experience of working at one of the most prominent theatres in the country, The National Theatre in London. It was provided by National Connections, an initiative that gives young people experience of professional theatre-making.
How did your placement at The National Theatre come about?
“For my final major project, I was interviewed for the role of Stage Manager on the show Blackout, a piece written by Davey Anderson for the National Connections competition that took place earlier this year. We performed shows at college and West Yorkshire Playhouse but unfortunately we didn’t get through to the finals at The National Theatre.
“Soon after, my tutor found out about Connection placement opportunities for those who were involved in the competition. So I applied, detailing my experience in props and theatre. I then got a response informing me that I was successful and had the chance to travel down to London to do a four day placement in the props department, which was very exciting.”
What did your placement involve?
“During my time at The National Theatre, I shadowed workers in the props departments, helping dress the stage for two Connection shows, as well as fixing and improving props that groups had brought in for their performances.
“Tasks were varied, from challenging to unusual. My first job involved painting a park bench in a way that looked like it had been etched with a compass and my final task of the placement included sanding and painting four stools and a table to look like fresh varnished wood.”
Have you always had an interest in theatre? How did that come about?
“In high school, I didn’t really know about the industry of backstage work, but one day, a representative from Backstage Academy came in and talked about the vast opportunities available in this sector.
“I was really interested in the work they do, especially the chance to travel around and work in the entertainment industry. I assumed everyone else in the room was too but it wasn’t until they asked those interested to put their hands up, that I realised I was just one of two people in the room to do so. This is when I thought it might be something I should consider as a career, so I researched courses near me and a Technical Theatre course showed up at Leeds City College, which I applied for.
“My course incorporated the right modules for me to learn the basics of what it’s like to work in theatre, as well as skills I could apply to similar jobs in the industry if I wanted to branch out and work in other sectors in entertainment.”
What are your ambitions for the future?
“In September, I’m planning to study Technical Theatre at the University of Derby as I don’t know what path I want to take, but I know I want to work in theatre and learn as much as possible while I have the resources and opportunities available to me. I have an interest in Stage Management and after doing the props placement I am considering working in this area or another creative department.”