Stage door manager Ned Seago: ‘I would like to fall off my perch at work’
Having worked at London’s Old Vic Theatre for more than 30 years, stage door manager Ned Seago, who won The Stage’s Unsung Hero award 2017, has such extensive knowledge of the building that he runs his own tours. He tells Giverny Masso about why he has no intention of retiring from the job…
What has kept you at the Old Vic for so long?
I’ve been here through numerous management changes and survived an ownership change, and I can only say it’s the bricks and mortar that hold me prisoner. I have no intention of retiring, I would like to fall off my perch at work. That would, of course, be awfully discombobulating for the next person that would have to sit on it, but that’s how I’d like to go – in the reins, doing the job. It’s a dead-end job unless you happen to love it, which I do.
How did you get into theatre?
I was nine when one of those family friends you call ‘auntie’ first took me to see Gilbert and Sullivan, and I just loved it. That piqued my interest and I later went into theatre in an amateur capacity. I was kind of at a crossroads, looking for something to do, and the Old Vic was advertising for front of house and box office staff. I applied; the box office said no, but the house manager said yes. I lived in Norfolk and he wrote back saying, ‘Pop in’, and I thought, ‘That’s a hell of a long pop.’ I started off ticket-tearing eight shows a week, and I was asked to assist in the box office. I said to the box office manager, ‘It’s funny I’m doing this for you because I have a letter of rejection from you at home.’
How did you progress to stage door manager?
I was asked to provide stage door cover at lunchtimes. Then I was asked to be administration assistant, and this was when my history lessons began, because I found a huge folder in a cupboard, mouldering away in a rehearsal room, that had so much history that it was damp and beginning to fall apart. I asked if I could rescue it, so I made lots of folders and added to it. The entire collection I made is now at the Bristol University Theatre Collection. In 1991 I became bar manager and deputy house manager, then in 1998 I was asked if I could do stage door for two weeks. I guess they discovered they needed someone permanently, so they asked me, I said yes, and here I am.
What does the job involve?
I like to think that I come in and mind everybody’s business for them. We’re mail sorters, parcel deliverers, the conduit through which information flows to the rest of the building. We are an angst sponge – believe me, the woes we hear from everybody… It’s amazing that no matter how busy a person professes to be, they always have time to stop and tell you what’s wrong. If you enjoy interacting with people, it’s a great place to be. You meet practically every type of person there is in the world, and I find that very interesting.
Tell me about your tours.
I’ve been doing the tours for years. A wonderful woman called Barbara Kinghorn used to do them and I eventually took over from her. We’ve been recording the number of tours since 2006. Since then, I’ve given tours to five full houses’ worth of visitors: that’s 1,077 people times five.
CV: Ned Seago
Training: Semi-professional training as part of a community company with Mike and Sandy Wilson (1982)
First professional role: Usher at the Old Vic
The Old Vic will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year with a series of events including a Birthday Tour with Ned Seago on May 14, 2018