Curtain goes up on stage secrets

Compiled by Karly Cox

The theatre is a world of make-believe, but our junior reporters got a chance to peek behind the scenes to see just how the magic happens

Compiled by Karly Cox |

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(From left) Junior reporters Samantha Lau, Heidi Kwan and Joseph Lai got the chance to go on stage as well as behind it.
On February 23, three Junior Reporters went to the theatre. But rather than settling in the plush red velvet seats of the auditorium and sitting back to watch the magic on stage, the trio was there to find out what happens behind the scenes of a major theatre performance. They met Andrew Speed, company stage manager of the hit British play One Man, Two Guvnors, which was in the city as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Speed introduced them to backstage tricks and told them some secrets about the show, such as revealing that the dustbin lid that the lead character smacks his head on is actually made of very thin, light material ... although when they let us try it, it still felt pretty dangerous!

Samantha, Joseph and Heidi with Andrew Speed and an assistant stage manager.

Set in Brighton, 1963, One Man Two Guvnors is an award-winning drama about a starving servant, Francis. He tries to serve two masters, Stanley and Rachel - who happen to be boyfriend and girlfriend - at the same time, for two salaries.

Our backstage tour showed me how a show like this could never be such a huge success without the backstage crew. It was a reminder that "many hands make light work".

Without the company stage manager, who is responsible for booking air tickets, hotel rooms and other crucial arrangements for the whole group, the team couldn't travel around the world to perform.

What's more, no one would know how long they should stand on stage, or wait for an entrance from the wings. The drama would end up being a mess.

Without the playwright, the audience wouldn't laugh or clap their hands. Without the actors, the awesome comedy would just be a boring and lengthy script.

A successful performance is all about teamwork in the theatre, especially for an enjoyable comedy like this one.

Heidi Kwan

Having never seen a theatre performance, the backstage tour of One Man Two Guvnors was truly an eye-opening experience for me. The story is funny, but there is a lot of unseen effort in the show.

Our backstage tour was led by the stage manager, Andrew Speed. He showed us different aspects of what happens behind the scenes, ranging from set design, the way the doors work, fake food, sound equipment and so on. The backstage area was smaller than I imagined, but it was full of interesting things to help impress the audience.

For instance, the lighting system is a small machine with loads of buttons on it. These little buttons help to create many wonderful lighting effects to make the scenes more enticing.

What impressed me the most was a short corridor near the dressing rooms. As the only place with Wi-fi, it becomes a busy avenue for touring actors to keep in touch with their friends and family.

Samantha Lau

Witty, humorous and hilarious, One Man Two Guvnors has been keeping people on the edge of their seats and clutching their stomachs since 2011 and it didn't disappoint in Hong Kong. Yet audiences see only about 10 per cent of the effort that goes into a play. It's what goes on backstage that really keeps it going and prevents it from becoming chaotic.

What's real and what's not? Everything was revealed in the backstage tour. First of all, to my disappointment, the food served in the much anticipated dinner scene wasn't real and so Francis doesn't actually eat it. Pity, the lamb chops looked really delicious ...

A play has to run smoothly for the humour to actually be funny. Many scenes in One Man Two Guvnors rely heavily on the actors making their entrances at the right time. I've never really known how they do it. The answer was revealed - there's a television screen just behind the set door. Why didn't I think of that?

The dressing rooms are again not what I would have imagined. We often think actors all have very glamorous lifestyles, with flashy backstage accommodation, yet here there was nothing more than a plain room with a few mirrors and a toilet. It wasn't particularly nice, and yet we were told that this was one of the good ones. No wonder acting is not as popular a career as it once was. There's no glamour!

Joseph Lai