Roundhouse Time. – I discover the joys of the 130 hour working week

Working at the Roundhouse Theatre was both exciting and exhausting

About 1998, an old friend of mine, Robbie Simpson, asked me if I would care to be the next Production-manager at the Roundhouse Theatre where he was working at the time in some technical capacity or other. I thought this might be fun, so I applied for the job and to my considerable surprise got it, in spite of having really no real experience in that particular work. But then, the man who gave me that job – the Director of the Roundhouse Trust – had been in charge of the Egg Marketing Board before taking up his post at the Roundhouse….

Thus began what was probably the most amazing three years of my life.

Being Production Manager there meant being in charge of everything apart from Front of House and office type administration, so I was in charge of a staff of about 30 or so totally weird hippy-like stage hands, electricians, carpenters, cleaners and others, and was totally responsible to ensure that everything technical worked for incoming companies and the public.

It also meant working for anything up to 130 hours every few weeks as a new show came in (The Roundhouse was a sort of short run pre-west end theatre), as most shows came for about a month and then headed to the west end theatres if they were successful with us.

Being literally an old engine roundhouse – the first in the world built by Stevenson in 1836, it wasn’t actually a good structure for theatre, so we more or less completely rebuilt the auditorium and stage for each production…..

We had the most amazing variety of shows there, ranging from classical music concerts, musicals, film shows, huge rock shows every Sunday, drama and so on.. Anything you can think of could and probably did happen there at one time or another.

People who we worked with included, and this list is far from complete:-

Doctor John

Pink Floyd,

Yes,

Stone Ground,

And outside the Roundhouse I had the pleasure of working with Frank Zappa as well… A man whose work I admired enormously…. And I am happy to say that he was every bit as pleasant and sharp in person as he seemed to be when one saw him being interviewed. An intriguing man and an incredible guitarist too.

Well to make the list shorter, we had almost every rock musician and band apart from The Beatles, the Doors, Hendrix and Joplin. For the rest more or less everyone who was busy with Rock in the years between 1969 and 1974 appeared there in one way or another…. One highlight was the first of the Stone’s Last concerts… That was circus to say the least, which I shall write about more fully later.

Further,

Pierre Boulez,

London Philharmonic Orchestra,

BBC Symphony Orchestra,

Le Grande Magique Circus,

Arian Menushkin’s Théâtre du Soleil,

Jean-Louis Barrault,

Godspell,

Peter Brooke,

Sir Lawrence Olivier,

Johnathan Miller

Jeremy Irons,

David Essex,

Bernard Breslaw (he was such a gentle person in spite of his impressive size)

Continue reading “Roundhouse Time. – I discover the joys of the 130 hour working week”

Travelling With Charlie Watts

Many years ago, around 1966 I was a student at St Martin’s School of Art (as it was called in those days) which is in Charing Cross Road, London.   Immediately opposite is Denmark Street, a small street where loads of music companies used to have their offices.

OK, so why the guided tour of London you ask?   Well simply enough, it is because among others, the Rolling Stones who were beginning to be very famous had an office there as well, so we saw a lot of the band as they went about their affairs there.

At the time I lived in a suburb of London called Brixton, which I travelled to and from via the London Underground every day, and it so happened that Charlie Watts also lived down that way, thus he frequently used the underground to get to and from home, and he and I used to chat about life and such things as we went home of an evening.   Very nice guy, by the way.

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Anyhow, the point of this farrago is the way other travellers reacted to seeing Charlie Watts sitting there.   People sort of gazed at him, did double takes, but simply couldn’t believe it was really him, as of course, Rock Stars do not travel around in the underground – They travel in huge limos with body guards and so on……

For his part, Charlie Watts simply ignored everyone and behaved as if it was a perfectly normal thing for him to be on the underground, reasonably enough, and didn’t react to their stares.

In due time most people simply assumed it was a young man who looked remarkably like Charlie Watts and left it at that – But it was Charlie Watts.