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Volunteering backstage for Jekyll & Hyde

I came to Centre Stage having heard that their 50th anniversary production was going to be The Pirates of Penzance. I had such fun playing Edith, one of Major General Stanley’s many daughters that I wanted to take part in another show. This time I auditioned for their brand new musical Lysistrata. I got in and found out that I was again going to be playing a character called Edith! After making some wonderful new friends playing two powerhouse Ediths in two flamboyantly fun musicals, I really wanted to continue doing shows with Centre Stage. However, I became ill and had to take a lot of time off to recover, and, unfortunately, singing, performing and Centre Stage all had to take a backseat.

So I was on sick leave, sitting at home a lot and realising that I desperately needed something to do. Since I was keeping up to date with Centre Stage on Facebook, I saw that their latest production was going to be a guilty pleasure of mine: Jekyll & Hyde. I knew I had to be involved somehow, so I applied to work backstage and, to my delight, I was accepted into the creative team as props master.

My job was to source, create and gather all the props we needed for the show. Some were rather easy to find, for example notebooks and pens, but some were considerably harder to get my hands on, such as vials of chemical formula that sparkled red in the light. The prop that proved to be the most difficult was Dr Jekyll’s syringe, full of the aforementioned chemical, that needed to be injected, live, every night, into the actor’s arm. Of course, we couldn’t have a real needle and a real injection, so I created a bag full of a super absorbent polymer which could be strapped to the actor’s arm and would absorb all the liquid from the syringe, without leaking. With a bit of careful arm placement, the effect worked really well and after hearing a few squeals of “oh my god, he’s actually injecting himself” from the audience, I knew it had worked.

I loved working behind the scenes on Jekyll & Hyde and working with props gave me so many opportunities to be creative, in an artistic way and in a problem-solving way. I really got to use all different parts of my brain to come up with cost-effective ways of getting detailed, accurate and hard-wearing props that would assist in adding another level of realism to the production. I’d always done little creative projects in the form of homemade Christmas cards and a few scrap books but seeing my props being used as integral parts of the show and seeing my set dressing designs brought to life on stage really gave me a boost of confidence and self esteem, and, thanks to this props opportunity, I am looking into a professional prop making course to continue to put my love of theatre and creativity to good use.

Written by Sarah Taylor


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