Stage stream presents big challenge to theatre team

PUBLISHED: 06:00 17 September 2015

Entertaining Angels

Entertaining Angels

Abbey Theatre

The setting for the first production of the new season from the Company of Ten has presented a huge challenge to the theatre company's crew of set designers and builders.

Entertaining Angels by Richard Everett is set in the beautiful garden of a vicarage where vicar’s widow Grace is coming to terms with her husband’s death.

All the action takes place in the garden and the construction team needed to build not only part of the vicarage but a garden, a greenhouse, stone walls, and most importantly, a working stream, separate from the rest of the set.

Director Lee Harris based the design on his family parish church in Dorset. He explained, “I have the artistic vision, but not the technical mind. I am very glad to have been able to harvest the knowledge and skill sets of my talented crew, to bring the vision to life.”

As head of the construction team, Cliff Stratford’s biggest headache was creating a running stream. He said: “Not only was I building a water feature, which was new to me, but I was doing it inside, on a stage, surrounded by very expensive and potentially dangerous equipment.”

There have only been rare occasions when such a skill has been required, the most memorable being Wind In The Willows when Ratty had to row across the front of the stage in a boat.

Cliff went on: “The water was only shallow, but the strain of the weight tore the lining and it leaked. Luckily the water only damaged the carpet, and not the lighting equipment”.

For the stream in Entertaining Angels, shallow water was not an option and Cliff and his team had to build it from scratch.

Starting with a long thin box made from oddments of wood, they used a pond liner, protected with carpet and pipe insulation, then added a pump and a circulation system.

Cliff was delighted when it worked: “We filled it with water and switched it on, and suddenly we had a flowing river. It looked rather basic at that point but once the props team and painters got their hands on it, it was transformed into something beautiful and real.”

Entertaining Angels opens at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans, at 8pm tomorrow night (18). It can be seen at the same time on Saturday (19) and from next Tuesday, September 22, to Saturday, September 26. There is also a Sunday matinee at 2.30pm.

To book tickets click here or call the box office on 01727 857861

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