All about the Westovian Theatre Society - Pier Pavilion South Shields

Backstage

In the fifties, sixties and early part of the seventies sets were made up entirely of flats, wobbly, flaky flats with the light shining through cracks, because in those days we didn't paper them. These flats were wood framed and covered in canvas and even now have not all been replaced, and not until the advent of papering sets with wallpaper were the light cracks hidden from the audiences. When Jim Gray joined the society he recalls that the set was roughly designed by the director the entrances, exits, windows and fireplaces etc. being noted and then it was up to the stage manager to sort the rest out. The original fifties back stage team comprised of, Wilf Clarke the resident electrician, very good at keeping wires in sockets with matchsticks, Alan Knox sharing stage management with Wilf, Doug Dryden and Winnie and Jimmy Scrafton the scenic set building artists and friendly but slightly 'aloof' from those acting, some things never change!

The facilities at St. Aidans were basic, the lighting archaic and dangerous the dressing rooms very large but a long way down under the hall and very cold. At the time though they seemed such an improvement on other halls used in past productions which is why the Pier Pavilion seemed such an improvement apart from the small Dressing Rooms, now there was space at the side of the stage!

Times change and now the scenic side is taken care of by Yon Lawson, Anne Allen and Geoff Ramm and helpers. The set building now a more substantial task by Chris Allen, Neil Hales, Ken Allen, David Millar and helpers, with members sharing props and costumes for different shows.

Some things though, never change the certain 'aloofness' still raises it's head from time to time and throughout all types of work involved in running a Theatre Society as in many walks of life, 'The Willing Horse' carries on until pensionned off or goes 'sick'.

The lighting packs and lights have changed out of all recognition over the years and as the society strives to continue improving productions. Looking back the present facilities would have been marvellous to those older members in the fifties. Yet in 1977 when the first phase of building was done and only back stage was slightly spruced up, these facilities seemed quite good and after the 1981 phase when the Dressing Rooms were enlarged and fitted out, consensus was the improvement was staggering. Now as the Millennium beckoned they seem small, tacky and in great need of renovation. This just shows how far the society has come in the last 80 years or so.

Even after the 1996 extensions with a rehearsal studio, workshop etc. storage is still at a premium there seems to be no space at the side of the stage, we cannot fly sets and set pieces wouldn't it be nice to have more space? or a Fly Tower. Though I have to say that 'Political Correctness' seems to be going mad when you now have to have four foot wide gantries and a lift so that wheel chair persons can be accomodated to work backstage, I personally think ablebodied members often think twice about working up aloft.

The lighting console, computerised though it was and the Sound Desk, both of which would have gladenned Wilf Clarke's and his predecessors hearts now seemed dated. So as theatre in general and the Westovians in particular constantly move on to more complicated productions and we strive to keep up, we renewed our Lighting and Sound Systems in 2005. So it is the size of our theatre. which now limits the choice of production material.