Returning student and Duty Manager, Cat Watts, shares her tips for working at the ADC Theatre
My relationship with the ADC can best be described as on-again, off-again. I went on a Year Abroad, and they held my job. I went off to Belfast to write endless emails for a year, and they held my job. We’re heading into Year Seven now, which means that in ADC terms, I am a wizened grandma, a community elder, and I have much forbidden knowledge, secret things once known that should not have been forgotten. I’m going to share some of this knowledge with you now.
- Don’t let Management know that if they ask you to mop under the beer barrels, you’ll actually do it. Similarly, do not sweep the yard, because once you’ve seen it clean once, you will have to clean it always.
- Pay attention when you are taught to use the blank-firing gun; you will also learn several new and creative swear-words, mostly to describe how you will feel if you don’t wear ear-defenders.
- Do not ask a lad to meet you after your bar shift to go for pizza, because the poor boy will rock up to find Red Trucks On Park Street. You will last four days after that, and when he dumps you, it will really fit in with the week you’ve had - that is, if, like me, you run yourself over with the cherry-picker (yes, that’s possible), fly the house tabs into an actor who left by the exit you mentioned, many times, wasn’t an exit, and hold a fire extinguisher while the lead actress, naked, slathers herself in “magic cream” in front of an open flame.
- Sometimes (and possibly this is related to my No Good Very Bad Terrible Week) Management have an entire health and safety meeting About You. The conclusion? It’s not really possible to legislate against the kind of person who runs themself over, which honestly is a fair take.
- You can sleep anywhere. Lying down in counterweights waiting for your cue, in a cuddle-pile on top of some metrodeck, at 4am in the metrodeck rack, under the desk in the Club Office (check whether the Obligatory CUADC Couple has got there before you. Seriously. Knock first, always.)
- You do occasionally get a nice quiet shift at the Corpus Playroom. The cans machine won’t be cooperating, of course, but when does it? You can finish all your translation assignments during finals while at the management desk. (Management, if you’re reading this, replace the desk-chair. I’m begging you.) A classmate seeing the show might have the audacity to come up to you, “Oh, I see we’re both avoiding our degree!” You can back in the warmth of knowing that sorry, sweetheart, no, you’re paying the rent and getting your work done. You can’t beat a playroom shift.
- Memorise the subtle difference between a fire alarm and a panic button being accidentally elbowed by a member of staff on a busy night - unless you want to help the Duty Manager evacuate a full theatre in between the mainshow and the lateshow, unless you want to sit in the management office until 4am, waiting for the only electrical engineer in the entire south of England on call at midnight to get to Cambridge, so that you can work out why the fire alarm keeps ringing when you’ve checked the entire building and there was no fire. Or don’t, if your preferred conflict-resolution method is a full evacuation.
- When the evening chores are done, work on your hobbies - like persuading the Operations Manager to buy outlandish drinks, because if drinks don’t get sold, bar staff get to drink them. Other skills include conversations held over weeks with absent management members via post-it note, the exquisite timing of cooking dinner to avoid the interval, and introducing new bar staff to the wonders of the All-Bar Special.
- If you’re working the full shift from 6pm to 3am, you’re gonna want an all-bar special. Time was, bar staff were allowed one cup of coffee for free while on shift. One cup is the key term here; turns out you can fit a double espresso and a mocha from the machine in one cup. Drink that during the second half of the mainshow and you’ll run til the bar is closed. Drink more than one, or indeed consume any further caffeine, and your fingers will stop working and your eyes will go a little blurry.
- Try to be around for the Lent Term Musical - sure, it’ll probably be a great show, but more importantly there will be endless flight cases and you will never have a better opportunity to play The Floor Is Lava. Pray midnight doesn’t crash the tills during the rush to the bar; make sure you’re on shift with someone who is very, very good at mental maths.
- If you’re lucky, you’ll meet your best friend helping out at their get-out, shouting down to stage from counterweights, though neither of you will know it for another few weeks, until the next show comes around and you meet for real. They’ll have been intimidated by you and your steel-capped boots and headlight, which is hilarious, as you will spend the next five years hopelessly intimidated by them. There is nothing more intimidating than being surrounded by talented colleagues.
- You can make sure they’re never intimidated by you ever again by taping yourself to a broom at 3 in the morning, because they need to focus lights for an actor more than a foot taller than you, and your arms are tired.
The eagle-eyed might notice that some of this is stage management, and some of it is general hanging about, and you don’t get paid for either of these things. Some of it is bar, or front of house, or duty management, and they actually really do pay you pretty well for that. But here’s the thing: things get messy when you grow up somewhere. I have spent possibly years of my life in the skip. When we open up again this autumn, I will get right back in.
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