We spoke to Marketing Project Office Kitti Henzsel about her experience of working at the Mercury Theatre
I am a third and final year student at the University of Essex studying Bsc in Business Management. I am currently undertaking an internship with the local theatre, the Mercury Theatre, for three months to gain employment experience. Gaining real, hands-on work experience is an essential part of any course of study now since employers will always want to know what skills you can bring with you to a new position. My intern position at the Mercury is Marketing Project Officer, which is a fantastic opportunity for me to gain practical experience in an area in which I wish to work in the future.
About Pieces of String
An emotional musical set in both the 1940s and the present day, Pieces of String has been showing and I have been lucky enough to be able to see a performance. Pieces of String is a heart-rending story about Jane, who discovers her father had a secret which he brought back with him from the Second World War; a secret which he took to the grave and which has a major impact on his family.
It was such an inspiration to see how much work goes into a show like Pieces of String. I was able to witness first-hand how each member of staff is committed to their individual task, yet the department in which they work is a piece of a jigsaw, and that piece is essential to make the jigsaw whole and complete.
The Writer, Gus Gowland
It all starts with the writer, who I was lucky enough to meet several times. Gus Gowland from Muswell Hill wrote the book, music and lyrics for Pieces of String. Having taught himself to play the piano when he was a child, Gowland was always drawn towards the stage and performing. He trained as an actor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. He decided to focus on writing rather than performing, and studied for a Master’s in Musical Theatre Writing at Goldsmiths University in London. It was there that Gowland began working on what would become the musical, Pieces of String.
How the Book Became an On-Stage Musical
I was very much in awe of someone who can write a piece of work like this and fascinated at how it is then translated into such a moving performance on the stage. I was particularly interested in the duties undertaken by the Workshop, the Wardrobe, and the Stage Management team.
In the Workshop, the staff are responsible for all the different layers that make up the stage layout. I hadn’t really given this much thought before, but I saw how every element of the stage had to be planned out. From the dusty attic to the front door of the house and the peeling wallpaper, every detail contributes to the atmosphere on the stage. Props like old suitcases and forgotten lampshades in the attic, and a fireplace and mantelpiece all contributed to the vintage 1940s vibe.
The costumes were also fundamental to recreate the right era. I saw how the Wardrobe department dealt with issues like fit and colour of the costumes so that each actor looked just the way they needed to in order to play their part. It was fantastic to meet the cast during my lunch breaks – and slightly strange to see them off the stage and talking normally rather than in character.
I have met the Producer and had the opportunity to sit in on a Tech Watch. This is where all the Technical Services department staff meet to discuss stage issues and resolve any problems cohesively. Lighting and sound specialists meet with staff members from Workshop and Wardrobe departments during a rehearsal and correct every detail until they are confident that every element of the show is perfect. It’s a long process – but it’s definitely worth it!
The Stage Management Team help to bring everything together so that the show goes smoothly.
As Marketing Project Officer, I am mainly in the marketing office. I am intrigued to see how the team keep abreast of all possible marketing options so a show’s target audience is aware of the performance. The marketing team have to constantly shift their priorities to meet deadlines.
My internship as Marketing Project Officer is proving to be extremely productive and Pieces of String is amazing. The acting and singing are superb, the staging is brilliant, especially the lighting to highlight the different scenes, and at the end of the show, there was a standing ovation. I am very much looking forward to the next two months at Mercury.
Blog Post by: Kitti Henzsel, Marketing Project Officer