This month, we meet Company Stage Manager, Suzie Normand who’s touring White across Europe. Sadly this is Suzie’s last tour with the company as she leaves to work as Red Bridge Arts’ Production Manager from January. Suzie’s been in and around Catherine Wheels from the start – working on our very first show, and always has a great tour story to tell (her most recent included a slippery sausage, some baked beans and someone else’s handbag)…
How long have you been at Catherine Wheels?
I first started working for Catherine Wheels in 1999! I toured with their first ever show, Martha. I then worked on Frankenstein and a show called Red – which nobody else in the company liked, but I LOVED it! It was about twin girls, who travelling through space in their spaceship and find an unusual object, which turns out to be an egg and it hatches overnight to reveal a red space-dog! I loved the set and the music (not so much the singing – sorry Gill and Helen!) and I got to meet the lovely Shona Reppe for the first time! There were 4 women and an unmarked white van let loose, touring about the UK and Ireland……great fun! Oh and Paul Fitzpatrick was the recorded voice of the spaceship’s computer! It was before the time where you could loop recordings, so he had to say this one word, “DANGER” about 100 times in a row, for one of the cues! I went away to be the Stage Manager at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews for a few years, but in 2010 I was very lucky to be asked back to Catherine Wheels, to work on the show White and I have stayed here, up until now!
What does your job involve?
When it is a new show that we are creating, I assist the set designer. Looking for any furniture or set dressing items that are required for the staging of the show. I make and source the props. I also get to assist my favourite pal Craig, the Production & Operations Director. This can be anything from building sets, fixing equipment, trying to squeeze our sets in and out of a shipping container, helping him locate tools he has ‘misplaced’……..! And we always do things with good sing-a-long tunes blaring out the sound system! I also have to watch rehearsals and note down all the moves that the actors do. Then when we go to tech the show, I note down where all the sound and lighting cues go, in the script, so that every time we perform the show, we know when the lighting and sound effects should happen. When we take a show out on tour, then I am responsible for putting the set together, setting up the sound equipment and re-lighting the show. It is also my job to do all the weekly schedules, for the actors and other production staff that are out on tour, so they know where they are going and when they are doing it!
What has been a Catherine Wheels highlight for you?
Clearly being the Dance Captain on The Voice Thief! (Although I was a little disappointed, that our glow in the dark welly boots, were not put to more use!)
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Getting to tour to so many amazing places! Meeting and working with lots of great people along the way. Watching the reaction of the kids and noticing how different that can be sometimes – from a small village to a big city and from country to country.
What’s the best thing about working in theatre?
The challenges of creating a new show and always getting to meet and work with new actors, performers, production staff and creative teams.
Can you tell us a Catherine Wheels secret?
When I tour with White in Europe, we always do the pre-show checks to different genres of music and then have to do the checks through the medium of song or dance! We also do a tour video, as a treat for the rest of the Catherine Wheels team!
And finally, how would you describe Catherine Wheels in three words?
Fun, brilliant and inspiring.