I have always believed that the little things matter because, when all is said and done, the little things added together make up the Big Picture.
I ruminated on this
when Mr B and I joined thirty-eight fellow members of our Merry Band of Questers for a behind the scenes tour at Chichester Festival Theatre. We arrived in plenty of time for a restorative cup of coffee in the cafe, delighted to have been able to use our Blue
Badge in the adjacent car park. Every time we use our badge, I think with gratitude of Paul, the kind man who carried out the assessment to determine whether we qualified for this privilege. We are, indeed, indebted to him. It may seem a small thing, but it
really is a Big Deal. See what I mean?
We had been divided beforehand into four groups, Mr B and I being in Group 1 which was the only group with access to the lifts. Everyone had been given a ticket by our
organiser which led to numerous queries because we all had the same start time of 10.30 a.m. Nobody seemed to grasp the fact that each of the four groups would set off, and finish, at the same time, avoiding bumping into each other through careful planning
and the use of separate guides. Our organiser, patiently explaining this over and over again, was starting to look a trifle frazzled. I was glad for her when we were all called into our groups and All Became Clear.
The sweet young lass who led Group 1 would not have been born when the theatre opened in 1962. She shepherded us expertly from back stage to sub stage, from hexagonal auditorium to dressing rooms, from the wig room to the wardrobe room to the Green
Room. Along the way she recounted the history of this, the first Thrust theatre in England, the philosophy of its founder, Leslie Evershed-Martin, the principles of its architects Powell and Moya, and the scope of the 2012 Renew renovation project.
"See the concrete pillars," our guide commanded us. We all gazed at the concrete pillars. Had we noticed that they were unadorned - plain concrete, just as it was made? That was one of the architects' guiding principles,
we were told, that materials used in the building of the theatre should be undisguised by cladding or other decoration.
In the auditorium we looked down on the set for the current production of The
Mousetrap which, amazingly, Mr B and I have never seen. Our friend Paula said she had never understood the appeal of this most long-running of whodunnits which she had seen at another local theatre and considered an afternoon wasted. Fortunately our guide
was out of hearing as she was busy leading us through the production room where the Deputy Stage Manager controls all that is happening, or not happening, on-stage. Talking hexagons, she suggested we take a look at the tiled floors of the loos should we need
to take advantage of the facilities (I did, of course, being the biddable type. The tiles were hexagon-shaped. See what I mean about the little things?)
I couldn't help comparing the modern and spacious dressing
rooms with the cramped space allocated to Jean Valjean, star of Les Miserables, at the Queen's Theatre, London. You can't necessarily tell a star by his or her dressing room, I decided. The Wig Room might have been a revelation but, being the winter season,
the room was as follically challenged as Mr B - we did hear, however, that every wig cost at least £2000 and was made of real hair on account of the fact that synthetic hair might melt under the footlights. Fancy that! Whoever knew acting could be such
a potentially dangerous profession?
In the wardrobe room, costumes have to be washed every day. Every day?! queried one of our number, only to be reminded of just how sweaty and smelly clothes would become
after each performance. Touring companies often bring their own washing machines with them, in case the theatre they are visiting isn't so equipped. There was one in the wardrobe room, housed in a wooden crate, decorated with postcards from the towns the touring
company had visited. "Greetings from Rhyl" read one.
In the Green Room, where cast, crew and general staff gather for rest and refreshment during their time off, our guide drew our attention to the wooden
floor. Made of Canadian maple, it had been a gift from the theatre in Ontario, Canada which had been Evershed-Martin's inspiration. This was once the stage floor, but when this was replaced as part of the recent renovation project, the original flooring was
preserved in the Green Room. A precious piece of Canada in an English theatre.
Coincidentally when we arrived home after our trip, we found our very first Christmas card of 2015 on the door-mat - from Canada.
Our Canadian cousin Bob had obviously posted early as he was travelling south to escape the harshness of winter. "Though the distance and busy schedules keep us from talking as often as we'd like, it doesn't keep me from thinking about you, caring about you,
or wishing you a very Merry Christmas" was the greeting inside.
A theatrical inspiration, a wooden floor, a Christmas card, a warm greeting.