As part of our creation of The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency, we have worked together with Underground Lights to offer two placements for work shadowing to their members. Getting to learn about staging a new musical and being a part of a working theatre team provides a direct experience in what takes place ‘behind-the-stage’ of a large-scale touring show. Now that we come to the end of our musical’s run in Coventry, one of the Underground Lights members tells us about their experience working on technical rehearsals for the show.

Attending a technical rehearsal was my first chance to see and hear scenes from The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency performed on stage and with the full, impressive set. Director Adrian Jackson explained that the purpose was to practise lighting, sound and fly cues etc. The team also checked that the transitions were smooth and didn’t interrupt the momentum that had been built up, as well as many other aspects.

The company was rehearsing a comedy chase scene which involved potentially dangerous moves such as the swinging of a briefcase and actors pretending to fall over. External specialists were in attendance to observe and sign off the scene, to fulfil safety requirements.

In the break, Costume Supervisor Sarah Holland gave me a tour of the stage, including the quick change areas, as well as the dressing rooms with the classic lightbulbs around the mirrors! Sarah showed me here that one of actor Benji Lord’s costumes included a tunic attached to a jacket to save time.

The depiction of “the squat”, including a black-and-white dial TV set and a pub sign, evoked a sense of organised chaos. The “weeds” that were poking through the “bricks” reminded me of the Jeff Goldblum line from Jurassic Park: “Life finds a way.” Designer Ruth Sutcliffe told me that the realistic-looking “brickwork” was made by “vacuum forming”, which is a process whereby a sheet of plastic is heated and stretched over a mould.

Watching the actor-musicians perform in costume for the first time made me eager to see the full show, which I was able to do at the dress rehearsal. I loved Boff Whalley’s music and it was a pleasure to see my fellow Underground Lights members singing and interacting with the professionals. The show was funny, moving and rousing and I was very glad I would have the chance to see it again.

A massive thank you to Underground Lights and their two members for joining us on a work shadowing placement, as well as the entire Ruff Tuff cast for showcasing their work.