Meet Matt, Our Theatre Expert
A multi-award-winning service provider to the events industry, Gallowglass is less widely known for its theatrical roles. For the last 21 years we’ve been treading (and building!) the boards in theatres up and down the country, supporting venues and productions, often beating tight turnaround schedules. We interviewed Group Business Development Director Matt Storey to find out how Gallowglass helps its theatre clients deliver superb performances.
Having started my career as an actor, I joined Gallowglass with a useful stock of theatre experience and immediately saw how well-suited our crews would be to work in the sector. Our early clients were initially sceptical about the idea of outsourcing production crewing; the prevailing mindset being that events industry crews didn’t have the right skills; they weren’t trained or experienced in the theatre world. My own belief has always been that theatre training is largely acquired on the job, and I knew that Gallowglass crews’ technical knowledge and safety practices would transfer perfectly to a theatre environment. Not only are our crews multi-skilled, they also have an enthusiastic can-do attitude, which was patently lacking amongst many of the union-led backstage personnel I’d come across.
In fact, the only issue was around terminology as, in the early days, our crews didn’t necessarily know the meaning of words and phrases like ‘cyc, ‘prompt side’ or ‘iron’. The solution was simple, though – we just needed to add a terminology section to the Gallowglass Crew Handbook and problem solved!
We’re familiar with most of the leading theatres – from the National and the RST to the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. The many shows we have supported include Follies, War Horse and the Cirque de Soleil. Most recently, crews have been working at the new Bridge Theatre, the first large-scale commercial theatre to be built in London in 50 years. We supplied crews daily in the run-up to the opening of The Bridge on 18 October. It was a hugely exciting and high-profile project; our event crews in London were working inside an enormous metal box sunk directly underneath One Tower Bridge – a development of luxury flats and restaurants.
Another of our proudest projects – and one for which we won an industry award – was the installation of an exact replica of Stratford’s Courtyard Theatre, at London’s Roundhouse. For this, we unloaded 43 trailers and built the entire structure (three levels of seating to create a 750-seat auditorium and technical areas, plus the whole stage and backstage area), in just 11 days. We also handled all the changeovers between the six full-scale Shakespeare productions over the Theatre’s 10-week run. It was a tough challenge and an absolute triumph for all involved.
What can Gallowglass offer its theatre clients?
Our production crews provide efficiency and safety during Get-ins, Fit-ups and Get-outs. As well as unloading and loading trucks, we provide riggers and crew to assemble trusses and rig lighting. Our carpenters assist with the construction of stages and sets. We have skilled plant operators and theatre-experienced Crew Chiefs, so we’re equipped to meet any client requirement.
We train our crews to be able to multi-task in all aspects of a job so our comprehensive operational support ranges from laying floors, erecting flats or hanging equipment. We know that many productions are run on tight budgets, but that often emergencies arise at the last minute, needing crews to work through the night. When this happens, venues or production managers need to call upon external help to solve the problem. Gallowglass crews can reduce turnaround time and control costs.
Our first crew was drawn 21 years ago from the London Scottish Rugby Club. From the earliest day’s we’ve applied a framework of discipline and teamwork that is natural on the rugby pitch, producing a difference in speed and efficiency that was palpable – and measurable. Not only that, having our own health and safety company ensures that our production crews have been trained to minimise risk and avoid accidents, whether they’re working at heights or moving heavy props.
How do Gallowglass see the theatre industry as a client sector?
This is a great sector to work in, and one where we know we can add real value. We’ve enjoyed working closely with the ABTT and the HSE to ensure compliance in backstage health and safety legislation. In 2011, in direct response to the TMA/BECTU Code of Conduct we worked with the Ambassador Theatre Group to convert our existing training films into an induction course for theatre staff. Designed to minimise the risk of accidents, the course was commended by the HSE.
How do the crews feel about theatre work?
Our people relish the variety of their working week and the kudos that comes from being involved in talked-about projects. To be able to see something on the Ten O’Clock News and say “I worked on that” gives them a huge boost. The lads who recently worked on the new Bridge Theatre were invited along to the pre-opening ‘Makers’ Night’ as a thank you for their involvement. They didn’t need to be told how privileged they were to have contributed to such a fantastic endeavour.
Is Theatre a growth sector for Gallowglass?
The future for UK theatre, and, by extension, Gallowglass, is looking very bright. Audiences have grown, even during the last recession; people have been spending more of their disposable income on memorable experiences. And the technological advances that have made productions like War Horse so spectacular make many visits to the theatre unforgettable events. From our perspective, the increased reliance on automation, hydraulics and other sophisticated technology will continue to demand a professionally-trained and experienced labour force to ensure safety and efficiency, so we have plenty to offer our clients.
Thank you for the insights, Matt. If you’d like more information on how Gallowglass could support your venue or production, Matt would be delighted to discuss your needs. You can get in contact with him here.