Our beloved roadies are the mechanics behind the well-oiled machine that is Pickles! Our Roadies hail from all over France and Belgium. So what does a day in the life of a roady look like?
Well before they’ve even woken up our roadies have told the actors what time they will be leaving in the morning, making sure they have left plenty of time to drive to our schools (and perhaps with a little extra time just in case of traffic or an emergency coffee break). Sometimes our roadies (and actors) have to leave even before 5AM! (That’s a harsh wake-up call), but usually, they’re leaving the house around 6.30. While our actors nap away in the van our roadies take to the road, driving across vast and changing French and Belgian landscapes; sometimes in snow and hail other times pelting rain, but on special days they get to watch the sun rise up over Les Pyrénées, the sky bending into soft pastels, sharp oranges. A quiet moment before the real work begins.
After driving to the school, the tour manager will contact the teacher. There they’ll meet with the teacher in charge and be shown to the room in which the show will be performed. The roady will assess which is the best way to set up the stage, convening with the actors and then, the van begins to be unpacked. The actors and roady unload the van; while the actors set to putting up the curtain, props, music… the roady deals with the lights and the chairs. Pickles has a very specific way of performing and engaging with audiences; making sure the chairs are set up in the best way possible, both for safety and for sightlines. Pickles performs in all sorts of venues from black box theatres to cafeterias; making sure we utilise the space in the best way possible is essential. And this is where our golden roadies step in.
Roadies are the provider of the essentials; they find the toilets for our actors, ask for coffee (dire), act as translators, and make sure our actors and shows run as smoothly as possible. They set up large (and heavy!) stage lights that give our shows that special sparkle.
Our roadies are also the masters of time; it’s very important that everything runs smoothly and of course on the dot. Our roadies let the actors know how long until the student actors arrive (giving the actors adequate time to warm up). When the student actors arrive, the roady will let them know how long they have until the audience arrives, so that the actors can keep their rehearsals on time and get through every essential part.
When the audience arrives, the roady will help seat the students (in an attempt at orderly fashion), and (sometimes) will introduce the show, the company and what the students can expect – be interactive! During the show, they make sure the lights are switched on at the right time and then have a moment to breathe as our actors take over and do their thing.
At the end of the show, they turn on the house lights and take a dynamic photo of our actors and the student actors for the Pickles Instagram. In the break between shows, they make sure the actors have everything they need – coffee, toilet, an actual break. Sometimes the gap between each show is very short and the road manager makes sure our actors get the break they so rightly deserve. Again, the timekeepers let the actors know how long (or little) they have left before the next lot of student actors come. Rinse and repeat.
During the lunch break, they make sure our actors are fed too. Whether the school provides food or we need to hunt it down elsewhere. Of course, our actors have various dietary requirements and making sure they are all fed and watered is vital.
At the end of the day, and all the shows are finished, the roady will pack down the lights, load the van with the actors, make sure nothing is left behind and thank our teachers/our schools for a lovely day. Ooooof! And still their day isn’t over!!
They have the drive back home to the gîte, maybe a stop at the super market too… Occasionally our roadies and actors will have to change school in the middle of the day; this can be a fine art of making sure everyone arrives to the next school on time, everyone is fed and everyone gets a break. Not easy by any feat.
On top of that they have to contact/communicate and organise the next gîte, (ensure the cleaning is done) but between schools and performances, our roadies become tour guides – bringing our actors to see attractions in the area, try the local cuisine, swim in rivers, even skiing! They help keep the morale of our Pickles teams up. They make sure our actors have the medicine they need – because sickness can strike at any moment, they are the essential translators, they make sure everyone is fed; they are the balm of well-being.
Usually our roadies will spend 2 weeks with one team at a time; I think we can all agree it’s an exhausting job and two weeks at a time is enough.
Each roady, like each Pickles team, is unique and brings their own approach. They have to be able to adapt to each group, filling in the gaps where our actors need support. They are the in between for our artistic directors and our actors. They are our middle man that makes sure everything is smooth, our actors are happy and our shows are the best they can be. They are our glue! And we love them; they make for a smooth road ahead!