My first paid job as a technician was at London’s Vault Festival, where I worked for a few months, on and off, as well as continuing my job in a pub. I did a lot of unpaid work before this – my biggest insight into the world of technical theatre and events was working with the National Student Drama Festival.
When I decided tech was what I wanted to do, I did many profit-shares and crewing work just to gain experience in the industry that I wanted to be in. I was also the technical manager of my local theatre’s drama society.
I originally decided to apply for the role of lighting technician for the Vault’s late-night events. I had hardly any experience with this type of tech work, but I just thought: “Might as well.” I didn’t get the job, but they advised me to work as a casual tech.
It was daunting because it was my first paid job. I thought I would make so many mistakes, but lo and behold, I didn’t. I knew what I was doing, managed my time well and the tech went great. I loved my time there, and things just got bigger and better from then on. There are a lot of techs out there that don’t require training and you learn on the job. This is okay. I didn’t go to drama school, and now I have a full-time job in a theatre.
I now work at London’s Yard theatre. It has been such an experience. I finished university and started this job, learning so much from talking to creatives, as well as visiting other theatres and technical managers. If I don’t know something, then I ask. There is so much to learn, and it would be silly of me to say I know everything. I would never be where I am now without asking questions, going out there, working and learning.
The best bit of advice that I got was from the Yard’s artistic director, Jay Miller. He said to me: “Don’t always jump up and do what is asked. Take a moment to understand why artists want certain technical elements in their performances.”
Training: Drama at Queen Mary University of London
Theatre includes: The Crucible (Yard Theatre); Sophie, Ben and Other Problems (Tabard Theatre); Sex Sex Men Men (Yard Theatre); The Rain God (Vault Festival 2018); Lights Over Tesco Car Park (Pleasance)
James Andrew Dawson was talking to John Byrne