Behind the scenes
One of the great things about a weekend in London is that you really never know what you’ll come across. We sat at breakfast on Saturday and wrote down a few things we wanted to see. We got as far as the Royal Albert Hall before the plan changed. We did see the photography exhibition there but in the process came across a “secret tour” with some stories about things that have happened there over the years. It was a definite hit and a lot more memorable than what a more traditional tour might have involved. But the thing which really struck me was what we learned about what happens behind the scenes. We saw this close up as the Cirque du Soleil is currently performing there and we saw them talking through one routine.
Unfortunately for us, they weren’t doing very much. But then we went upstairs and realised that everything we were seeing had been brought by the company with them from Canada. The Hall doesn’t provide anything for them other than a venue and electricity – and even for that, it’s a different voltage from their equipment so they bring huge transformers with them. We loved the ‘make up mirror’ cases, complete with random electrical cables.
The Cirque du Soleil is the longest running act the Hall has – most are for one night only – and stay for six to eight weeks a year, which is a good job because they bring with them 60 trucks’ worth of equipment – and we are talking the big trucks!
The loading bays can take three trucks side by side and it takes them four days, working 24 hours a day, to load everything back onto the trucks after the last performance, but as they are paying to hire the hall for every day it takes, there is a clear incentive to get the job done. In the meantime, the whole place is full of their equipment. They have 60 tonnes of it hanging from the Hall’s dome alone.
Getting some idea of the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes was a good reminder of how little we so often see of what has gone into anything of value. As I read a novel now, I am much more aware of how easy it is to skim over passages which might have taken an hour to read and longer to edit. I am reminded that photos we see might represent hours of waiting for the right moment which is over in a fraction of a second. After being here, I now have a load of pictures in my camera and have absolutely no idea what they will come out like. And I quite like that feeling again, the not knowing, and the surprise which always comes with seeing a print for the first time. And as I was out running along by the Thames (and getting lost, so I ran a few miles longer than expected) I saw a good number of crews out rowing at an equally silly time on a weekend morning, but they like I know that some things you have work on if you’re serious about them. And that’s irrespective of any talent we might have in a particular area, there is still no substitute for the hard work that yields the results.
We didn’t manage to see the Cirque du Soleil production but it’s on the list for next time we are in London – and it will be all the better for having seen some of what goes into these remarkable productions.