From Henry V to Harry Potter to Huntingdon

There is some incredible talent behind the scenes at Huntingdon Drama Club. We spoke to Sarah Stammler, wardrobe supervisor on Five Farces about her incredible career in costume for theatre, TV and film. A journey that has gone from the wooden ‘O’ of Shakespeare’s Globe to Leavesden Studios to dressing Hollywood royalty.

You’re heading up our wardrobe department for Five Farces – that must be quite a challenge with five different plays and almost 20 cast members?! (and no budget!!!)

To be honest, it has been quite an easy one.  We managed to get quite a bit from the Drama Club costume store and miraculously what we picked was suitable and fitted the actors.  Also having a very proactive wardrobe department on the case, making hats and various bits for the show has helped immensely.  Having no budget does make a difference and if the look and Director’s vision is right then we can be more flexible regarding the design side of things.  This is my first production with Huntingdon Drama Club.  I had costumed Oh, What A Lovely War! for the 2018 remembrance show where I met Kerry MacCuaig who became an HDC member and asked me if I would help costume Five Farces. so here I am.

You’ve worked at one of London’s most illustrious theatres – Shakespeare’s Globe. Tell us what that was like – you were involved from the very beginning? 

Yes, my neighbour in the Borough Market, Jenny Tiramani was the Theatre Designer and close friend of Mark Rylance and when I said I was at college studying costume making at London College of Fashion she asked me if I wanted to do some work experience at the Globe Theatre, which was still under construction, we worked in a portakabin on the roof of what is now the museum building.  The first shows we worked on were Henry V and The Winter’s Tale.  The theatre was full of artisan builders creating it around us as we worked. (I still have a piece of oak that was used as a door stop).  Luckily we got to sit and watch the rehearsals whilst sewing the costumes.  It is an amazing space.     

Costume fitting for Mark Rylance at the Globe

At the time the Globe was being run by one of our greatest actors – any special memories of working with Mark Rylance? 

Yes, we all worked very closely together and were like a big family. He is a really gentle and lovely man, and mesmerising when you are in his presence.  He was very committed to the authentic practice for costumes and it was such a learning curve for all of us.  He said he loved the costumes made by hand and in the shape and fabrics of the period as they made him act and move in a different way to modern costumes.   

I understand the Globe at the time was very keen to present everything as close as possible to Shakespeare’s original practises. Was there anything you had to find or create that sticks in the memory? 

It was Jenny and Mark’s vision to recreate everything authentically, and over the 10 years cottage industries developed from this.  Even to a breed of sheep being reared in Wales that had been around in Henry VIII’s time for their wool.  No sewing machine was used, everything sewn by hand.  My fingers were bleeding from handsewing a leather doublet and hose for Charles,the wrestler in As You Like It.  The shoes were all hand-made, stockings hand knitted, braids and buttons hand twisted and made.  Willow branches, we had to soak in a bath, were used to made the hoops in the farthingales.  Only linen, wool, leather and silk fabrics were used. We had a lot of vintage fabrics that we used to make the costumes from and often you would be given the smallest piece and told to make a doublet out of it.  Which is what they would have done in the time, repurposed garments and patched them to make the next one.  It was an amazing place to work.  We even got to visit the V&A clothing archives and to take apart a 16th century robe to see how it was put together, that is how authentic it was.  I worked for 10 seasons there and it was hard work and long hours but the camaraderie, quality of work and costumes produced were amazing. Unfortunately, when it was taken over by the next artistic director, this practice was stopped and costumes were not the same, although we did often wonder how appreciative the audience actually were of our handiwork!  

Sarah at the Globe with the theatre still under construction

Away from the theatre world – what have been some of your most memorable experiences costuming for TV & film? 

I worked on the set at Leavesden Studios with three tiny unknown actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson on the first two Harry Potter movies.  I altered Prada suits for Tom Cruise on Mission Impossible 2, I made Oliver Cromwell costumes for Tim Roth in To Kill a King.  I spent 9 months on the TV series Band of Brothers and met Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks when they came to visit Hatfield Studios where we worked.  but the pinnacle of my career was when I went to Provence to fit Angelina Jolie with a wedding dress I had made for a film called A Mighty Heart and became her personal dresser for the week at the chateau and even got to meet Brad Pitt!

Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart

Is there a particular style or period of costume that you prefer to work with?

I do prefer using a sewing machine if possible.  Pantos are great to costume and make. They are fun and don’t have to last long.  I prefer period costumes rather than modern fashion to make and every type of costume for film, TV and theatre.    

When have you been really blown away by costume design in a show you’ve seen? And is there a show that would be your dream to costume? 

For costume design, recently, I have to say the series Bridgerton.  The designer, who is an American, has designed the most colourful and amazing costumes, which are unlike any of your usual period film designs.  The show I think would be fun to costume is Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert – for the drag queen costumes!

Meet The Author!

We recently caught up with Richard Brown who has adapted the five short plays by Anton Chekhov that we will be presenting in May 2022 as Five Farces.

HDC: Richard – it’s fair to say you’re a bit of a renaissance man! Directing, acting, writing and of course chairman of Shakespeare at The George. How did you first get involved with drama & when did you start acting & directing here in Huntingdon?

RB: I was first exposed to drama at Cambridge University where I joined the Footlights Club, but not as a performer more as a film maker. My ability at acting was simply dreadful! However, afterwards, Sue Limb, now author & radio broadcaster, took pity on me and offered me a part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and off I went into a world of over-acting from which I probably have yet to emerge. In Cambridge I acted regularly for Combined Actors (for whom I was Chairman on several occasions) and BAWDS. Roz and I then moved to Godmanchester in 2004 and I managed to grab a part in the 2005 production of Much Ado About Nothing at The George. This wonderful company has rather become my theatrical home ever since, as actor, director and Chairman. However Shakespeare is not my be-all and end-all and I have enjoyed being part of the Brampton Park Theatre Club and of course working with the Club on A Bunch of Amateurs in 2018.

Richard (left) in A Bunch Of Amateurs (2018)

HDC: Your adaptation of Chekhov’s Five Farces was originally performed at Brampton Park Theatre Club. What drew you to these plays (one of which I believe the author never finished?) and how did you go about adapting them?

RB: I was introduced to them by my father, who arranged a production of several of the farces for Combined Actors of Cambridge. They were such an enjoyable treat that they stuck in my mind as potential for another airing, achieved ten years ago for the Brampton Park Theatre Club. However, although designed as quick-witted farces, the 19th Century world of Chekhov saw comedy in a very different way to ourselves who have been brought up with the pace and rhythm of television sketches. I therefore wanted to experiment in a much less literal adaptation than the traditional ones, to use the basic themes of the sketches but freely adapt them to tune to a modern ear, brought up on Fawlty Towers, Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies, etc. This allowed some bonuses for me, such as changing the sex of characters to allow a wider variety of female roles, and, yes, cheekily taking on the challenge of completing The Night Before The Trial (which Chekhov abandoned after setting up the characters). My favourite alteration has to be Swan Song, originally a slightly heavy duologue between an elderly actor and his male prompt, into a wistful aged story of unrequited love.

HDC: Do you go and see a lot of professional theatre? Is there anything from that world that you’ve found particularly inspiring for your own work?

RB: I don’t go and see as much as I should! In fact I like “making” theatre more than necessarily going to see it (when I do go, I am always angry at myself for not seeing more). Much of the stuff that should have inspired me I never saw, beginning with Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Instead I fell head over heels for his great written essay The Empty Stage, and that formed my manual for directing theatre. I think my love is finding ways to tell stories. I have quite a low boredom threshold so I always want things to be exciting and challenging. One of the great turning points for me was when the French Cultural Attaché asked us in Cambridge to celebrate the bi-centenary of the French Revolution by producing a version of a little-known French play called 1789 – a telling of the early days of the Revolution using jugglers, puppets, multiple stages and more adrenaline than you could fit into the warehouse of a theatre they used. Despite the fact that no printed script existed, we were shown a film of the original production and set to re-inventing it and re-writing it. It was a wonderful experience of unadulterated freedom of ideas to entertain which has stuck with me since. This thing about amateur and professional theatre came to a head some years ago when Shakespeare at The George joined an Open Stages experiment provided by the Royal Shakespeare Company, a way of us sharing their professional techniques and they our amateur enthusiasm. It resulted in my being able to play Shylock in a short extract from a production of The Merchant of Venice directed by Jacqueline Spencer (who, I am delighted to say, is organising & directing these Farces) at both the Swan Stage and the main stage at the RSC. The very strong conclusion of the experiment was just how similar the amateur & professional world can be.

Richard (left) as Peter Quince in SaTG’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2019)

HDC: You directed Pericles in 2017 for SaTG – a Shakespeare play that perhaps isn’t so familiar. What prompted you to choose that one?

RB: Well, in the first place, the fact that it wasn’t so familiar. I love reading plays on holiday. Either I read a few pages only or I get transported. I took Pericles to Sicily and fell in love with it. It was a rather magical telling of stories that more appropriately lie in the realm of fairy tales. It was also a play I could fiddle with! I know critics regard it as a lesser play for its language, but the audience loved the magic of it and I loved the invention it required to be produced.

joust scene from Pericles
Richard’s 2017 production of Pericles with SaTG

HDC: If you could direct one play with any group of actors, past or present, what would it be, where would you stage it and who would be in your cast??

RB: I think I might just duck this one! If I had the ideal cast in the ideal play, at the ideal location, my contribution would undoubtedly be to bugger it all up! My greatest happiness in directing has always been to work on what looks to be problematical material with a cast more full of commitment than necessarily top talent. Having said that, if Lin Manuel Miranda was stuck in Huntingdon with nothing to do, I might just try to squeeze him into some modest role… I also once acted alongside Tom Hiddleston and I would happily give it a go again.

HDC: And finally – tell us why we should book tickets for Five Farces??!

RB: Because we all desperately need cheering up! It is a perfect set of plays for just sitting back, relaxing and laughing at absurd characters in impossible situations. With the talent available both in my fellow directors and the actors performing with Huntingdon Drama Club, you really are in safe hands, so forget Omicron or the on-going adventures at Downing Street and instead indulge in this rather naughty delight.

Five Farces – Online Play Reading

An enthusiastic group of Zoomers joined us on Thursday January 20 for a thoroughly enjoyable read-through of Five Farces, our May 2022 production. With all 5 directors in attendance it was a chance for wannabe cast members to familiarise themselves with the 5 plays before auditions in February. The plays (adapted by Richard Brown) are a real hoot and sure provide a great night of entertainment for audiences when the production runs from May 12 to 14. If you’d like to audition or help out backstage or front of house or in any other way then head to the Get Involved page to find out how.

Meet Our Members: Lighting Technician

In this ‘Meet Our Members’ interview, we have a chat with one of our highly skilled but seldom seen members – talented Lighting Technician Max Richardson. We are treated to a journey through the surprising variety of tasks his role within local theatre entails, both for Huntingdon Drama Club and other companies and groups, as well as learning a little about the man himself…

So what exactly do you do – both for our Drama Club and with other organisations?

I wear 4 hats in am-dram, which in most professional environments would be accomplished by a team: 

Lighting Designer:Start by reading the script and highlighting what the scene is and anything that can indicate the time of day or where they are. Next, I will talk to the Director – some have clear opinions and have a fully formed idea, some develop ideas during the rehearsal process and some prefer the lighting designer to visualise the end product. With directors that develop ideas over time, it is sometimes an challenge that they will realise they want an effect that needed to be considered much earlier, such as the almost cliche moment during the tech when the director announces “…and that’s when the smoke comes in”, not having talked about the possibly of it prior, and this has to be worked out fast!Once I have established what the director wants I watch at least two full rehearsals of the show; seeing the rehearsals in the correct order for the running of the show generally helps; from this I decide how to divide up the space, when the lights will change and the position of any special lighting effects such as a bonfire, a lantern, a sunset etc. This also gives understanding the feel of the show, while keeping in mind issues of visibility, safety and the capability of the venue.

Rigging and Wiring Technician (the Get-in/Setup): Before the get-in I have written all my plans down so that when the company get the equipment into the venue we can work quickly with fewer mistakes. My main goals are to construct the lighting rig, run the correct wires to the correct lights and making sure all things being rigged at height are safely attached, get the lighting power distributor working, put the right coloured gel (whilst checking all the lamps in the generic lighting are working), give any smart lights addresses, get the lighting desk running, then fix what ever is not working then finally position and angle the lights so they are the same as the plan I drew up in the rehearsals.

Lighting Control Programming: There are two types of lighting control – analogue and digital. Analogue is straightforward and the ‘programming‘ is affectively note-taking, but is very limiting on the number of lights you can control, plus most of the lighting controllers with this capability are archaic.Digital lighting control comes in many flavours and require specific knowledge for each kind, but share many principles, meaning if you put in the time to learn a particular desk or software, other forms of lighting control will be familiar, but still require some study to understand. With Digital lighting control it is possible to create memories or scenes (which is specific lights at specific percentage levels), and with a couple of button presses they can be recalled. If the get-in has gone smoothly and I’ve not spent too much time fixing problems I will program these be ready for the tech rehearsal. Another nifty ability with Digital lighting control is the ability to make a cue list or sequence – this is many memories or scenes that play in a specific order activated by the go button. Aspects of the cue list or sequence generally get tweaked after the tech and need re-recording, and any notes about the timing of the lighting changes need to be updated and written into my script and the Stage Manager or Deputy Stage Manager’s Script.

Operating the Lighting Control and Live Problem Solving: Before each performance I turn on the lighting power distributor, check that all the lights turn on and are focused on the stage correctly and that the lighting control works as it should. Then I enter pre show stage until the show starts – if there is a Deputy Stage Manager I will maintain contact with them during the show and they will tell me when the lighting changes happen, as they happen, otherwise I will watch the show and follow my script and activate the lighting changes based on my notes. If there is something not working before or during a show I have to decide if I have time to fix it with out disrupting the show, or wait until the interval or after the show.

Wow… no wonder you’re busy! Thanks for sharing all the hard work that you put into local theatre! What are the biggest challenges as a Lighting Technician?

HDC in the last few years have staged performances in alternative spaces such as the performance of The Thrill of Love in All Saint’s Church. Sally Fuller, the Lighting Designer was stumped as how to rig a top spot light with nothing to attach over the area it was required, so over an afternoon I engineered an ultra-lightweight solution made from some cable, some scrap metal (a beer can!) and a small low voltage lamp! (Pictured left)

HDC in the last few years have staged performances in alternative spaces such as the performance of The Thrill of Love in All Saint’s Church. Sally Fuller, the Lighting Designer was stumped as how to rig a top spot light with nothing to attach over the area it was required, so over an afternoon I engineered an ultra-lightweight solution made from some cable, some scrap metal (a beer can!) and a small low voltage lamp! See photo below…

More recently for the performance of Cathy, Rae Goodwin staged the show in a thrust shape (audience on three sides) on the Commemoration Hall floor instead of the stage which creates a multitude of issues with the installed rig, so this required supplemental tripod lighting stands for adequate coverage.

Tell us a random fact about you – or about your role – that we might not know!

I currently work as a full-time theatre technician for Oundle School’s Stahl Theatre.

How much time does it take to set up lights for a production?

It can vary based on the complexity of the set up but generally 2 to 3 days!

How did you learn your lighting skills?

I studied at Peterborough Regional College on the Technical Production arts course in 2008, but I have also volunteered for many am-dram shows in Huntingdon and Cambridgeshire since then.

What would you say to someone who would like to learn about being a Lighting Technician, but has no experience of it?

Showing an interest and asking questions is the best way, I’m always interested in talking and teaching my lighting skills!

Which production’s lighting were you most proud of and why?

Rather than being particularly proud of any particular show, I find my pleasure in specific lighting scenes or changes that are particularly beautiful:

Oberon’s magic effect in Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare at The George; night time at a stranger’s apartment for Cathy; The forest glade in Shakespearean; lightning in a dimly lit theatre for Bunch of Amateurs; sunset to sun rise before the battle for Richard III with Shakespeare at The George; the top spot for The Thrill Of Love.

Starter or dessert?

Both, but if I was pushed to decide, two starters.

Describe your perfect day:

A day that is equally relaxing and productive, perhaps a Friday.

Cats or dogs?

This little kitten called Beatrice, who goes by Bea!

There is a place beyond the trees – Blue Monday Community Poetry Project

As the end of last year brought its usual reflections on the preceding twelve months, we found ourselves thinking of how the uncertainty and isolation of this period is potentially affecting the mental health of many. As creative types, we are also sensitive to how crucial arts and entertainment can be to emotional well-being.

With this in mind, we have worked with the local community to put together an ensemble reading of the poem ‘There Is a Place Beyond the Trees’ by Anthony Briscoe, a piece which highlights the hardships of life but also emphasises the joy and relief that will follow as we fight ourselves out of the grip of our struggles. A reflection of the adage that “It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth”, we want to offer this message of hope and encouragement to our audience and reaffirm the joy that can be found in life.

If you are struggling and need extra support, you can find it here:

Mind infoline: 0300 123 3393

The Samaritans: 0845 790 9090

Mind website:

You are not alone.

Meet Our Members: Producer

Join us for another ‘Meet the Members’ interview. This time we speak to Matt Calleway, who takes on another of our most crucial and rewarding but less apparent roles; that of the Producer. He shares the highlights of the role, along with how he became involved with the drama club and explains what a Producer for Huntingdon Drama Club actually does…

How did you get involved with HDC?
I expressed an interest in helping out as an assistant-producer for Alfie (back in 2017). Somehow I ended up full producer though, supported in my role by the Director and Stage Manager who had both produced before! I then produced The Crucible (2017) and The Thrill of Love (2018) and was involved with writing and developing Fantastical Folktales for the Bridge Festival in 2019.

So what does a Producer actually do?
The role of a Producer with the Drama Club is nothing like the musical! You basically “project manage” the play, organising production meetings and schedules, keeping an eye on the budget (as worked out by the Director), helping the Stage Manager facilitate the “get in” to the venue and “get out” of the venue, organising publicity in the form of organising a poster tour and sometimes writing press releases for local papers.

What’s the best thing about producing?
Seeing the whole play come together. You attend very few rehearsals as Producer, as your involvement is almost entirely behind the scenes. As a result between the read-through (where you meet the cast) and the dress rehearsal in situ, you may only make three or four rehearsals so you really get that ‘wow’ moment when you see the finished production!

Do you need any experience or training?
None, my first foray into producing was my first foray into the world of amateur theatre!

What is your no.1 tip if you want to be a great producer?
Be organised and get to know the Director and Stage Manager early on, you will be working really closely with them so make sure you are all on the same page.

What was your favourite moment of the shows you have produced?
Seeing the buzz of the audience coming out of The Crucible, so excited and energised by the play – even though it had been nearly 3 hours on hard wooden seating – and hearing the conversations that it had sparked in the pub after.

Starter or dessert?
Dessert, but it could be a good cheeseboard.

Cats or dogs?
I had both growing up, but to avoid offending our current pets I’ll say cats.

Favourite season and why?
Autumn, I love that sense of change in the air and being able to watch it happening in the trees.

Describe your perfect day?
Early start, good coffee, then heading out to explore a new place (urban or rural), a swim in the heat of the afternoon, and then cooking up something seasonal and fresh for dinner with a pint of ale.

Meet our Members Series: Director

In the latest installment of our ‘Meet our Members’ series we’re catching up with Rae Goodwin, one of our talented directors, having directed two recent award wining dramas for us. We discuss some of her favourite directorial moments, as well as what advice she would give to new directors and where on earth a director gets their ideas from…

Tell us how you first got involved with Huntingdon Drama Club.

I relocated to Cambridgeshire in 2015 and, with my new job, found I had more free time on my hands in the evening. I’d been wanting to get back into performing having had a 10 year hiatus and this provided the perfect opportunity. I researched a number of local groups and was drawn to Huntingdon Drama Club because they had produced interesting plays such as Breaking The Code and The Accrington Pals in the past. I contacted the Club, was cast in The Madness of King George and have been involved every production since in some capacity or another; whether it be performer, producer, stage manager, front of house or director.

Starter or dessert?

It really does depend on the mood I’m in! However, I’m more likely to go for starter as I have a savoury tooth.

Favourite time of year?

Autumn because I love the colours.

Describe your perfect day?

Browsing some record shops, popping into the National Theatre bookshop to pick up a play text or two and then heading off to a gig or a show.

You have now directed two award winning productions for us, Cathy and The Crucible. What has been your favourite moment with us so far?

I was incredibly privileged, on both occasions, to work with an extremely talented and dedicated cast and crew. Having gradually come together during the rehearsal process it’s that moment, when the first performance is over, of seeing the cast and crews’ facial expressions and feeling the buzz of camaraderie in the room.

We know you have been involved in directing for some time – what was your favourite directing experience outside of the club?

That’s really difficult to answer; like being asked to pick your favourite child! In my previous job, as a Head of Drama in a secondary school, I directed many productions across the years but two, in particular, stand out: the first one I directed, Teechers, which my GCSE students performed in promenade around the school. It was a first for both them and me and was a really enjoyable process. Another production that has stayed with me was a whole school production of His Dark Materials. It was a challenging show to stage but the students really stepped up to that challenge; especially those working with the dӕmon puppets.

Which theatre would you love to direct in – if you could choose any in the world? Do you know which play you would direct?

It’s too hard to narrow it down to just one! I’d probably say either the Dorfman Theatre in London, the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester or, more locally, The Place in Bedford. They are intimate, interesting and flexible performance spaces and I’ve seen some innovative and inspiring productions in all three.

With regards to the play, I’d probably want to direct an Ancient Greek drama; either The Women of Troy or Medea. Despite originally being performed in huge amphitheatres, I think both of the plays would lend themselves to a more intimate setting.

Where do you get your ideas from?

It can be anything, from a photo or image to a piece of music. I collect ideas in a notebook of things I’ve seen that, as an audience member, I’ve found effective whether it be on stage, TV, film or online. It could be the use of a particular lighting or sound effect to heighten a moment of tension, a detail in a costume or the portrayal of a particular type of character. I will reference this notebook when collating initial ideas for a production. Also, ideas will be generated organically by the rehearsal process; a performer will bring something to light that you, as a director, haven’t necessarily considered before. Those discoveries can make the rehearsal process even more rewarding.    

What are the most important steps throughout the whole process of directing?

Every director will have their own approach and those approaches will inevitably differ depending on the type of performance being created. For me one of the first steps, when working with play text, is to think carefully about a concept; making sure it’s coherent, consistent and most importantly, serves to tell the story rather than just being a gimmick. This is especially important when tackling period pieces or classics such as The Crucible where an audience may have a preconceived idea of what the production should look like.

Whilst I will have a clear idea of the concept and of how certain moments could look, I also try to be flexible with those ideas during the rehearsal process as performers and technical crew will make interesting contributions which can enhance elements of the performance. Similarly, if you have the luxury of time during your rehearsal process, giving the performers the opportunity to explore their characters through both on and off text activities can be a really rewarding experience and also serve to elevate the performance in the long run.

Feedback is another important part of the directing process; not only providing it, as a director, but also encouraging cast and crew to contribute their feedback too. I am always interested in hearing the cast and crews’ thoughts and opinions about how the production is developing.    

What advice would you give to someone interested in directing but was unsure where to begin?

I’d recommend reading a variety of plays as well as watching different styles of performance, whether online or in person, to discover what interests you the most. Once you’ve found a play you’re interested in directing, bounce ideas around with a friend and, when you’ve consolidated your initial ideas, pitch them to a local drama group. Also, I would highly recommend approaching a local drama group and asking to shadow a director for a production because it will give you a real insight into the demands of the role.

Meet our Members Series: Sound Engineer

Here is our third installment of our ‘Meet our Members’ series! We’ll be talking to our brilliant Sound Engineer, Jason Austin, whose editing skills and keen sense for cues ensure that are productions are atmospheric and smooth.We talk about what a Sound Engineer does and how he personally goes about it, and find out a little more about what makes him tick!

We know that you have been involved as a sound engineer for more than one local organisation – tell us a little about what you do.
Apart from being the sound engineer for Huntingdon Drama Club, I currently sit on the committee which I enjoy as it gives me an insight on how the dram club runs. I have been a church organist and sound engineer for HRC104FM. Currently I am writing music to pass the lockdown time and when the world is normal, I take on teaching the piano, which is a great passion of mine. If I am not listening to music, I’m editing, composing or teaching. 

Starter or dessert?
Desert all the way so I do not spoil my appetite with a starter!

Cats or dogs?
Cats as they are independent and sometimes a little crazy (the ones I know).

You have been Sound Engineer now for several productions, what has been your favourite moment with the Huntingdon Drama Club so far?
I do not really have a favourite moment as every play is different. I love doing every production because I get to work with brilliant and diverse people including, incredibly talented actors/actresses, great directors and always an amazing and talented production team.

There was a particularly brilliant moment in rehearsals for our most recent production, Cathy, where you were able to solve a problem with sound during a transition between scenes. It’s moments like this that people don’t always get to hear about – can you tell us what happened?
During the technical rehearsal of Cathy, Rae the director of Cathy said, “would it be possible to make the music for a transition longer” and me being me I said give me 5 minutes. So, I copied and pasted the intro to make it add those few extra seconds needed for the transition and had it completed in a couple of minutes, and it worked a treat, much to the amazement of everyone.

Where do you find your sounds, music and effects?
Most of the sound effects I use can be found on the internet. There are lots of free websites that allow you to download sounds for free. All you need to do is create an account and you have access to millions of different sound effects. 

How long, on average, do you spend editing sound for each production?
I usually spend 6 weeks collecting all the music, effects, and samples and liaising with the director to see what they would like (a lot of emails bouncing about at all times of the day and night). The main editing which is making sure all the sounds are correct usually takes 3 weeks ready for the fine tuning at the technical rehearsal.

Do you need expensive software to edit sound?
No, you do not need expensive editing software. I use Cubase 10 which you can buy for around £200. This programme allows you to edit any music and allows you to do recording of multiple instruments. You can usually do free trials, or if you want to try a basic free software you can try Garage Band.

It seems pretty technical, what advice would you give to someone just wanting to have a go?
The advice I would give is concentrate on one track at a time because what you do with a single track you can repeat the process for multiple tracks. The main thing you need is a passion for being creative.

Describe your perfect day?
My perfect day would be getting up, practice the piano, going to work and spending time with my family doing fun family activities and spending time with people who I am close to.

Meet our Members Series: Lead Actor

For our second installment of ‘Meet our Members’, we introduce you to one of our most talented and committed lead actors, Kerry MacCuaig, who played the pivotal character of Cathy in our Autumn Production of the same name. 
We discuss nerves, line learning, auditions and what, as a new member to the Huntingdon Drama Club, Kerry has learnt. We also cover the important questions of dream roles and perfect days…

You were brilliant as Cathy – what was your favourite moment of it all? 
Thank you. My favourite moment of it all was working with new people who I have become close with since finishing the play and working in a new style of theatre.

What was your favourite play you have acted in outside of HDC? 
I am really into musical theatre, so my favourite thing I have been in other then Cathy has to be ‘Oh What a Lovely War’.

How on earth do you learn all the lines? 
I am dyslexic so I find it quite hard to sit and read a script over and over again, so I recorded the play at the read through so I could play it over and over again. I also find moving with the script helps with learning the words, it makes it more of a physical act. To me moving with the script allows you to get the physical emotion into the movements and helps with learning the blocking (basic moment directions). I also printed off sections of the script and stuck them in different areas of my house. My husband thought I was strange but I learnt the lines!

What would be your dream part to play? Do you have parts you would like to play from different theatre genres?
Because of my love of musicals I would say Nancy from ‘Oliver’. I have recently watched ‘Jane Eyre’ and that role really intrigued me. I would also love to play the Woman from ‘The Woman in Black’ as I remember the play fondly and I’d love to make people jump! I would love to be a part of a play that I have always wanted to direct; it’s based on the film a ‘Matter of Life and Death’. I’d also love to be Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ as I would love to see it played in a different style. 

We’d love to see those! Do you ever get nervous? If so, when? 
I get really nervous in the first scene and then once I’m into it it seems to ease off, it’s the first few lines that get me. 

What do you do to manage your nerves?
I normally take myself out and have a few minutes just to myself and breathe deeply, I also run through my lines quickly as a sort of chant with a dance!

What advice would you give to someone thinking of auditioning but nervous about the process?
I would say that the Huntingdon Drama Club are really friendly and open to new people auditioning, I love the fact that the auditions are more like a work shop than an audition as I felt at ease and it’s nice to see and interact with other people from the club. I would say go for it, as even if you don’t get a part, making your face known can lead to good things. As for nerves, I guarantee they will fade within a few minutes of being there as everyone is friendly and welcoming and that is part of the reason I want to be involved with Huntingdon Drama Club again.

Starter or dessert? 
Desert because sweets are everything.I look at the desert menu before main menu most of the time.

Cats or dogs? 
I love them both equally and I am the proud mother of 4 ‘fur babies’ (3 cats & 1 dog).

Describe your perfect day? 
Have a big breakfast, go out for a fun activity like going to a zoo or something physical like swimming or going to a theme park, have more food and watch a new film with the family at home with a big bowl of popcorn or go to the theatre to watch a show.

Thanks very much for sharing this with us, Kerry! And as for our audience, keep your eyes peeled for our next interview in May!

Meet Our Members: Stage Manager

Our very first ‘Meet the members’ interview takes you back stage into the world of our enigmatic Lola Harling, one of our most dependable and competent stage managers who transformed the role within HDC into what it is today. We asked her several questions ranging from those about the art of Stage Management to a few about the woman herself…

What was the first production you stage managed?

The first production I had a stage management role in was at college, on my BTEC Technical Theatre course. I was the Deputy Stage Manager for the musical ‘Oliver’. The college had a deal with the Key Theatre in Peterborough that students who studied Technical theatre, musical theatre and dancing could put on a professional quality musical twice an academic year. My first production I stage managed for Huntingdon Drama Club was ‘The Madness of King George’.

How long have you been involved in Huntingdon Drama Club? Tell us a little about your time with us.

I have been involved with the Huntingdon Drama Club since 2016. I became a member of the committee and have the role of Social Event Organiser. In that time I have seen the club move location from the Commemoration hall to places such as Huntingdon Town hall, in the courtroom and St. Mary’s Church.

Don’t you have to know loads to be a stage manager?

I have changed the role of Stage Manager for the drama club by combining two roles together. Before I joined the club the role of Stage Manager would describe a role very like a professional Stage Manager, where you act like a health and safety officer and ensure everyone is accounted for; someone who runs the stage area. I combined this role with the professional role of Deputy Stage Manager – this role involves a special item called ‘The Book’. The Book is normally a folder with an enlarged version of the script where the Deputy Stage Manager notes down blocking. Blocking is a note of where actors enter and exit the stage; the actors’ movements around the stage; if they have a prop (an item the actor holds or uses); and if the director envisions a lighting or sound change. The Book is very important to help if anyone is ill and misses a rehearsal or if there are any changes to what cast need to do, and is available for everyone to see. By combining these two roles it allows the director to concentrate on directing.

What is the most important thing to know?

The main role of Stage Manager is to look after the stage and what happens on stage, and normally does risk assessments for the production and plans how and when all the equipment and set get set up and come down, this is called a ‘Get In’ and ‘Get Out’.

To do a Deputy Stage Manager role (which we combined with Stage Manager), the only difficult part is knowing your Stage Left, Right, Up and Down when watching from the audience point of view, and making sure people understand your version of short hand notes.

Any other top tips?

My top tips are:

  • Stay calm
  • Forward planning/thinking
  • Be organised
  • Stationary is your best friend
  • Be confident
  • Remind actors to be quiet behind stage

Who’s in charge once we’re in the theatre space?

The Stage Manager is in charge of the theatre space once you enter the space. This means even the director must listen to you. Especially when you have a Tech Rehearsal – this is the rehearsal that is just for the technical team, lighting; sound; set and props. Actors may get bored and frustrated, but as I always say, actors have several weeks to rehearsal and the tech team normally only get a day.

Starter or dessert?

Most people who know me well know I’m a dessert girl; anything lemony or chocolaty mostly. If it is ice cream, sorbet or gelato I’m a happy lady. But if I’m feeling like a piggy wiggy I will have a starter as well – normally something garlicky or calamari.

Cats or dogs?

I don’t mind cats but I am definitely a dog person.  When my boyfriend and I get a house I’m hoping to get my own dog. I’m sad scaly babies are not included in the question as I have an amazing terrapin called ‘Ariel’.

Favourite HDC production moment and why?

My favourite production moment is an incident during the production of ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’ when the character Denis accidentally crashed into the audience on a mobile scooter due to the audience members moving their chairs into the aisle. It was a concerning and funny moment all at the same time, will definitely go down in Drama club history.

Describe your perfect day?

My perfect day inside is curled up in my PJs with my other half or with one of my besties, watching feel good films, eating snacks and maybe some ice cream.

My perfect day outside is a day at the beach, near the sea, enjoying the nostalgia of being a child and feeling one with the sea (Yes, I believe I’m a mermaid!)