Mike Broadhurst: Interview with a Manchester based Theatre Technician
Mike Broadhurst is a theatre stage technician based in Manchester. Since moving into the world of theatre 3 years ago, Mike has performed a variety of positions both behind the scenes and on stage and has worked with an assortment of established, visiting shows.
Hi Mike, thanks for talking to us at TAL. What first attracted you to become a theatre technician?
The first theatre show I ever saw was We Will Rock You, the Queen musical back in 2010 at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. The show blew me away! The special effects, actors, actresses and musicians nailed my favourite Queen songs. From watching that show, I had always wondered how and what was going on behind the scenes and how it was constructed. I aspired to be a part of a production like that.
In 2017, I left my previous job and a great friend of mine wondered if I would be interested in working at the theatre. I jumped at the chance and I’ve worked in the theatre ever since.
What’s been one of your favourite moments or career highlights so far?
Working on The Book Of Mormon show when it first opened in the UK in 2019. I was follow spot number 3 for the whole run while it was in Manchester and it was fantastic! I met some amazing people. It’s my favourite show and has given me several fond memories!
What was your biggest learning curve moving into the theatre world?
Learning the names of things! My memory is not the best for physical things and I come from a very rock ‘n’ roll background, involving crew work for venues & bands. There wasn’t a whole lot of different equipment I had to work with, as it was just the usual setup of guitars, amps, cabs, drums, etc. It was not a necessity to learn the names of certain lights, ropes, fly rigs, machines etc.
In theatre there’s a lot more to remember and there are different names for various things. One show will come in naming something one way, and another show will come in calling that same thing by a completely different name. I’ve had to learn both!
What advice would you give to aspiring theatre technicians and those who wish to get into the field?
Firstly, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are unsure of anything or if something’s too heavy for you to move or lift on your own. The theatre is a professional, friendly environment, however, safety is the most important thing!
It is always good to be doing something. If you’ve finished a task, go and ask for another task to do. One of the most annoying things is to see someone just standing there, staring into space, or on their phone. Get stuck in and help one another!
Another top tip is to try and learn new things so it shows that you can be put into any situation such as sound, lights, flying etc.
In the theatre, each day can be different; you could be asked to work several different roles. It’s very handy to have some knowledge and training for these roles in advance.
Covid-19 has been tough on the entire entertainment industry. How has your experience been and how are you coping?
It’s been a pretty dark experience to be honest, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty and anxiety around if and when it will be safe for theatres to re-open. I have my up and down days with my depression and it’s certainly come out to play over lockdown.
However, in terms of coping, I’ve found numerous activities that help calm the mind: I have enjoyed taking long walks and exercise during the last few months, and I do enjoy playing a good video game!
I have actually discovered a game I had never played before – Dungeons & Dragons! This has been such a lifesaver for me, maybe because it’s so time-consuming? It’s a game that enables me to enjoy myself in an alternate reality with some of my best friends, and forget about the issues of the world at the moment. It’s been a really great way to socialise with people online too over this crisis.
Staying connected and spreading positivity has been important during this time, so I also hosted a live stream quiz on Facebook. The players had to see if they could name the song and artist from a selection of tracks that I performed on acoustic guitar and kazoo, which was a lot of fun. Some friends called it ‘the peak of lockdown’, which I’ll take!
I understand your theatre technician work is still on hold due to the ongoing closure across the UK, but do you have any other future plans and things you’re looking forward to?
Yeah, theatre wise I’m not sure when I’ll be able to go back to work because of the uncertainty of when theatres can re-open. However I am also the stage manager of an annual music festival in Manchester called SOS Festival. SOS has been running for the last 13 years and I have worked every single one! Obviously this year hasn’t been possible, but I am proud to say I will be working the festival yet again next year on the 2nd – 4th July 2021! For the people who love rock and metal music, check it out!