Monday, November 12, 2007

Technicians: The Unsung Villains

This article was originally printed in Noises Off, the daily magazine for the National Student Drama Festival and was written in response to an article 'Technicians: The Unsung Heroes' by Joseph Coates. As you can tell, it angered me somewhat...

Shakespeare was more of a genius than I realised. Not only did he write some of the most beautiful and influential plays in the history of literature, but he did it all… without tech! That’s right, he was happy for his plays to on at venues where the concept of the gobo hadn’t even been considered. Somehow he felt that a stage in the middle of a field was sufficient for the full weight of his plays to come across. What a fraud. That’s right, a fraud! At least that’s what Joseph Coates would have you believe.

Alright, it’s a facetious point to start with, theatre has moved on leaps and bounds in the last 40,000 years since Shakespeare’s time. Tech is now as an integral part of theatre as any other aspect. I’m not interested in belittling tech. No, instead I’m interested in belittling the moaning, pathetic, pre-pubescent, hormonally confused excuses for people that disguise themselves as techies of varying descriptions. But it’s unfair to talk about all techies like they’re one homogenous blob of angst. The word ‘techie’ is far too broad a term that applies to too many different people. Instead I’ll divide them into two categories, for simplicity’s sake let’s refer to them as the ‘talented’ and the ‘shits’. And it’s these ‘shits’ that are fucking it up for the rest of us.

I’ve had enough of hearing the same childish and unnecessary complaints from these people. Let’s have a look at just a few of these ‘shit’ comments: “Without us there would be no light. Literally.” Think someone’s got a bit of a God complex going on here… perhaps there’s a missing part of Genesis where it mentions that first God invented techies who were then graceful enough to invent light but I’ve yet to hear of it. Besides, I’m not a genius but I know how to flick a fucking light switch. Fair enough, it wouldn’t be the most impressive tech in the world but since the age of two I’ve literally been able to turn on a lightbulb.

Another typical ‘shit’ comment: “We technicians are the glue that hold you actors together.” Arrogance on this scale is so mind boggling it must be genuinely retarded. Actors get together months before a show, they rehearse and work together over a long period of time and this probably goes a long way to making them the self-obsessed luvvies (I’ve got to get some balance in here) that they are. But it’s the job of whichever poor bastard is directing them to make sure that they are a cohesive an functioning whole, the ‘shits’ a) don’t want to get involved and b) wouldn’t have the first idea how to communicate with someone from then outside world.

Please don’t think I’m talking about all techies here. Some of my best friends are techies (although unfortunately they’re not also gay, black or disabled). Let’s take a moment and consider these ‘talented’ individuals. The most important thing to say about them is that these ‘talented’ are competent. They know what they have to do and they do it quickly and efficiently with no dicking about and without that high-pitched whining that attracts dog-bitches on heat to the theatre. They have ideas, imagination. They communicate well with the director, they take an interest in the show from an early stage, they’re amicable to all the cast.

Tech runs, usually a source of immense pain to all involved, are relatively painless under the guidance of the ‘talented’. Whatever they’re spending their time doing you can rest safe in the knowledge that they’re doing it for a reason. They know that good tech is subtle. When an audience is trying to concentrate on the emotional context of a naturalistic play they don’t want to be distracted by garish and out of place lighting that happens to be ‘cool’ according to some ‘shit’. And when the ‘talented’ have done a good job they know it. They don’t seek praise like some three-year old begging for acknowledgement for the fact that they’ve managed to eat their food without spilling it down their bib. A nod and some words of praise from one professional ‘talented’ to another is enough because theirs is an art too subtle and complex for most laymen to appreciate.

Not for the ‘shits’ though. Faith in a job well done is not enough for them. Let’s have another look at the Gospel according to Coates: “When was the last time you heard someone say, ‘Who did those lights? They were cool! What about that sound? It was beautiful!’” Just because no one’s said it about your tech, doesn’t mean it’s never been said. In a recent production of Iolanthe I saw, a huge functioning waterfall at the back of the stage got one of the largest and most appreciative rounds of applause of the night. In a production of the Cosmonaut’s Last Message To The Woman He Once Loved In The Former Soviet Union the tech were brave enough to suspend two actors playing cosmonauts 30 feet above the stage. In another play, Sour Heart, there were at least 15 televisions spread out and around the stage that at various intervals played videos, images, etc. and all at separate times.

All of these plays got countless praise for the bold directions that the tech had taken from members of the public, even if they didn’t quite understand how much work went into it. And these are just three of the most recent shows I’ve seen. The ‘shits’ moan and complain as an excuse. It’s a mask used to disguise the lack of self-confidence they have in their own work. The fact is that when tech is exceptional people do appreciate it. When an actor is good people appreciate it. When an actor is appalling everyone knows who they are and will single him or her out. When the ‘shits’ completely bollocks up a show they have their anonymity to hide behind from the public.

Things have to change. No longer should actors be stuck in 10 hour long tech runs and abysmal first night performances because the ‘shits’ are too lazy and unskilled to get the lights and sound rigged properly. No longer should the ‘talented’ be tarred with the same brush as the ‘shits’. And no longer should we be subjected to the same repetitive ramblings of those with delusions of grandeur.

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