Backstage On Stage: The Noises Off Set Change

Backstage On Stage: The Noises Off Set Change

Since it opened on Thursday 4 June 2015, we’ve had as many positive audience comments about the Noises Off set and the theatre’s (real) backstage goings-on as we have had about the production itself. Due to popular demand, we cornered our Head of Production, Olly Seviour, who gave us a few bullet points about the complicated set and how his team constructed and conquered it…

This production is usually presented by using a revolving stage. Due to the limited space on The Octagon’s stage, our set has to be revolved in 3 separate sections (trucks) and moved to the other side of the stage to enable the audience to see backstage for Act 2.

Each truck has 12 swivelling wheels that are manually raised and lowered by the crew. So far only 2 wheels have broken!

The set was built and decorated in a 5 week period by 6 set builders and painters.

Due to the limited space at our set building workshop, the first time we were able to move the trucks to check they would work was the day we brought them to the theatre.

The set was built in such a way that meant we could dismantle it to transport it to the theatre and then through a 2 metre wide door at the back of our building.

When all of the pieces were in the building it took 8 set builders 2 12 hour shifts to get it to a fully working and presentable state.

The technical rehearsals began 2 days after the set arrived in to the building. During the technical 6 door handles had to be replaced due to the intensive door slamming.

The following production staff were required to get the production ready for its first audience: 8 set builders, 2 scenic painters, 4 stage managers, 3 electricians, 4 wardrobe staff, a Director, an Assistant Director, a Designer, a Lighting Designer, a Sound Designer, a Fight Director and an Associate and Movement Director.

The stage floor is the original hardwood planked floor that was installed when the Octagon was built in 1967 It took 3 people with floor sanders 12 hours to remove the many layers of black paint.

Due to the amount of varnish in the paint and the thousands of nails in the floor, we used 170 sanding sheets for the floor sanders as they broke within minutes of changing them.

The wallpaper on the set is from a vintage wallpaper supplier in Lincolnshire. This supplier has 100,000 rolls of wallpaper to choose from and are used by most TV, film and Theatre companies.

The hideous floral sofa was bought for £20 from a charity shop in Essex.

The 6 types of floral carpet were bought from 6 separate independent sellers. They were then all collected in one day from Hertfordshire, Walsall, Manchester, Liverpool and Wigan.

Due to the amount of running around on the set the stairs and landing handrail are made from metal and then painted to look like wood.

The first time we timed the interval scene change it took 55 minutes! Luckily we managed to get it a bit quicker before the first paying audience watched it.