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Behind the scenes: what actually happens backstage in theatre rehearsals?

Forever feeling nosey, we caught up with Greg Barnett ahead of his star turn in Wiltshire Creative’s Christmas show Snow White and the Happy Ever After Beauty Salon, to find out exactly what he and his co stars get up to in the lead up to show time.

When we caught up with actor Greg Barnett during rehearsals for Snow White and the Happy Ever After Beauty Salon, it’s fair to say he was feeling pretty tired. In fact, in his own words, he and his co-stars were all ‘exhausted – but in a good way.’

It was week two of rehearsals for this year’s Christmas show, which sees Greg play the king in the reworking of Snow White. We dragged Greg away from dance practice to get the inside scoop on what it’s really like prepping for a Christmas show.

For any wannabe thespians (or if you’re just nosey like us) here’s your behind the scenes secret look at what goes on backstage

Once upon a time…

Greg and his co-stars live together (the two boys in one house, and the three girls in another) for the duration of rehearsals. Greg is normally based in London, so has decamped with his dog to Wiltshire for the play. “When you’re in London you forget how lovely the rest of the country can be,” he says.

Show rehearsals run from 10 am to 6 pm each day and begin with a run through of each scene, learning the songs and dances in chronological order. “It takes about two weeks from first rehearsal to run through the whole play this way,” Greg says. “Once we’ve blocked the whole play, we go back and start refining scenes and making it tighter to get it performance ready.”

“We start the day with a warm-up first thing in the morning, then we’ll often do a dance call straight after that,” Greg tells us.

Snow White and the Happy Ever After Beauty Salon has just five cast members, all playing multiple roles, which means most of them are on stage at all times, so are in rehearsals each day. “Because of this, we can work through the show chronologically which is really helpful for us as actors as we get to see how the story arc of the show goes.”

Costume check

“We’ve already started having our costume fittings,” Greg told us. “The designers draw up all the costumes, then we go up to wardrobe and have our fittings. It’s sometimes just a shell of the outfit for size, then a few days later there’s a wonderful, sparkly, camp outfit ready for you.”

“Once we have our shoes we start to rehearse in them to get a feel for the character. Costumes make a huge difference to the character. You often have a good idea of how you’re going to play the part then once you put the costume on it changes and takes it to the next level!”

Tech rehearsals

Once the cast has done a full run-through of the play, it’s on to tech rehearsals. “It’s then that everyone checks everything,” Greg tells us. “The designer makes sure everything matches and looks good, the director checks the vision is right, the actors can check it’s all practically working and then we get one or two dress runs, with the second one performed for an invited audience, such as the front of house staff.”

“I’ve worked on some shows where you don’t get to do a dress rehearsal and everything is all over the place and somehow you pull it together, but there’s such an amazing team here in Salisbury that everything should run smoothly.”

Show day

Far from spending performance days feeling nervous, Greg says he goes about his day as normal ahead of evening performances.

“I normally go on a big walk with the dog, hit the gym and do a good workout, ” he shares. “There’s something in your brain that keeps you aware that you’ll be using a lot of energy at 7 pm, so it keeps you relatively relaxed on the day of the show. I tend to have an afternoon nap ahead of the performance.”

Showtime

“We come in about an hour before the performance and do a physical and vocal warm-up and chat over what needs looking at and see if we need to tweak anything or work around any issues from the previous night.”

“You have to be in your dressing room and ready 35 minutes before the show. It’s always nice to check in with the other actors and play a little game before curtain up, to check we’re on the same wavelength,” Greg tells us.

Post-show rituals

“Your adrenaline is pumping after the show and with a play like this, because it’s so buoyant and fun and we finish the show on a rousing medley of pop songs, it takes a while to relax after the performance, so I imagine we’ll have a little pint after the shows to warm down as it were.”

Fancy seeing Greg in action? Snow White and the Happy Ever After Beauty Salon runs at the Salisbury Playhouse from December 3 to 31. Find out more here

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