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One of the privileges of being with 4FrontTheatre yesterday was the chance to see ‘behind the scenes’ of a professional theatre company. I’ve often thought that being ‘on tour’ is a very odd way of living. It sounds glamorous – a different place each day, the adulation of an audience, the buzz of performance and so on – but to a homebird like myself, it also sounds very scary. I would hate to be away from home and family for days on end, and these guys don’t have the glamour of luxury hotels like the mega-rich!

Their days involve a lot of travelling, a lot of eating what other people put in front of them, a lot of setting up and taking down. Not for them the lifestyle of the rock star, with roadies to do all the heavy work: they have to carry everything out of the van themselves, set it all up, take it all down and carry it back to the van, often with time constraints chipping away at their sang-froid (dinner ladies in schools can be intimidating people!) I was amazed at the kit they had to bring with them: drills, glue guns, cable ties, scissors, sewing kits, allen keys, screwdrivers, gaffer tape galore! They looked like they had shares in B & Q!

Rob waiting for the glue gun to heat up:

Have step-ladders, will travel…

Sometimes they do all this twice a day, moving from one venue to the next.

In Goldthorpe, they did 3 shows, not two, and there was a brief lull between the afternoon performance and the evening performance. Apart from eating lunch and phoning friends and family, what did they do? Surprisingly, perhaps, they did not go to sleep… instead, they reviewed the performances and rehearsed. Again. And again. I was reminded of the quotation which tells us the difference between an amateur and a professional: ‘An amateur practises until he gets it right. A professional practises until he can’t get it wrong.’

They reviewed what had gone well. They were ruthless with themselves, freely owning to mistakes I’d never even noticed. They listened to each other and accepted both praise and criticism with the same desire to be better next time. They cut lines, revised lines, reviewed movements (each performance space is different and needs their careful choreography, especially in the very physical world of pantomime). They were still rehearsing when the audience started gathering outside the building before 6 p.m.

I was a spectator to most of this, unable to help because I didn’t know where everything went or how they could improve the show. But what I learned from being with them was that preparation and perseverance pay off. I may never be able to do what they do, but I know those things are crucial in every area of our lives and so the ‘behind the scenes’ lessons these guys taught me were as valuable as the ones I learned from the show itself. I also learned they are grateful people (polite, thanking us for food and accommodation) who truly love God and are happy to serve Him in the way they can do this best. We’re all different and these differences don’t diminish us, but truly give us many different methods to reach out to people.