The Visitor Experience Department is responsible for the presentation of the Company and the building to audiences and ensuring a high standard of visitor experience. The building must be kept clean, safe and secure for the public and staff who use it.

The Head of Operations & Visitor Experience, along with the Visitor Experience Manager are responsible for the welfare of the public, the staffing and rota of the Ushers, Security, Stage Door Reception and Cleaners, lost property and ordering first aid supplies. All activity in the Great Hall is controlled by the Head of Operations & Visitor Experience who also deals with all required licences and ensures that the Theatre is adequately staffed with trained first aiders.

The Visitor Experience Team also includes Stage Door Reception, Security and Ushers (including some volunteer ushers) who assist audiences and customers before and during performances, sell programmes and interval refreshments. As part of the show Technical Ushers operate the Theatre doors when necessary.

During performances the Visitor Experience Manager or Duty Manager supervises the Ushers and deals with any challenges or issues that arise with audiences. Close liaison with Stage Management is vital in order that each performance runs smoothly.

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In Wigs and Make-up actors are made to look the part. They get their hair done in the right way, are given facial hair and can even be made to look bald!

Some shows require actors to wear wigs – and these are specially made for them. Make-up is usually very light on the Royal Exchange stage and could be worn out in public without looking strange.

Did you know…?

- Wigs are usually made from human hair. First, a lace cap is made to the exact measurement of the actor’s head and then the hair is knotted into the cap

- For eighteenth century wigs the hair of a yak is used because it is slightly thicker than human hair but can still be styled in the same way

- Stage blood bags are made by wrapping stage blood tightly in cling film. They are then punctured so that the blood bursts out. One of the characters in Shakespeare’s King Lear has his eyes gouged out. To achieve this grisly sight, half a grape was placed in a blood bag which looked like a bloody eyeball when squeezed

- One show required that an actor have his fingers chopped off. He certainly wouldn’t have been pleased if he lost his fingers forever – so a special foam latex (rubber) hand was made. Pencils were placed inside the hand so that they would make a snapping sound when the fingers were chopped off!

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As a busy producing theatre, we have a highly skilled Wardrobe Department who make and look after all of the costumes.

Each production's Designer gives the Wardrobe team the costume designs about four weeks before the play opens. The costumes are then created during this time.

The Wardrobe Supervisor oversees the work and makes sure that everybody knows what they are doing; the Costume Designer who creates all of the ideas for the costume; and Makers who actually cut and sew.

Because the audience are close to the stage at the Royal Exchange it is important that all costumes are as authentic as possible. If the play is a period piece the Wardrobe Department will make costumes that show the period as close to reality as they can. For example, they will make the costumes using only fabric that would have been available during the time the play is set. Great attention goes into the detail of stitching, jewellery and ribbons.

The Costume Designer and the Wardrobe Supervisor usually go shopping together for any fabrics they are going to use, and for any costumes that need to be bought or hired. In modern shows the costumes are sometimes bought rather than made – from all sorts of different shops including High St stores like TopShop and H&M.

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For every Royal Exchange play there is a Stage Management team of three people. They are the Stage Manager (SM), the Deputy Stage Manager (DSM) and the Assistant Stage Manager (ASM). Each person has responsibility for different aspects of the production but they all work very closely together as a team. Here are a few of the many jobs stage management do…

- Find, create and buy all the paper props: working closely with the props buyer and the designer, stage management source paper props (things like letters or newspapers), and all the food and drink needed for the show.

- Mark-up the floor of the rehearsal room: To help the actors get used to the size and shape of the theatre, the floor is marked up using coloured tape which will reflect precisely the size and dimensions of the stage – it’s a bit like a basket ball court. Different coloured tape will show where items of the set are positioned. All of this helps the actors to know exactly where they can and can’t stand.

- Produce a door plot: This is a document which shows which doors actors are using to enter and exit during the production and when.

- Produce a schedule for each day: During rehearsals there are lots of places the actors might need to be. There might be wig and wardrobe fittings, publicity interviews, sound recordings or separate rehearsals for songs or fight scenes. Stage management produce a schedule which tells the actors where they need to be and when

- Compile the book: This is a copy of the script that has notes about where all the actors stand and move to, when the sound and lighting cues (changes) are, quick costume changes and so on.

- Set all the props and help with the scene changes: Once the show is on, stage management are responsible for putting all the props in the correct places and helping the crew with any scene changes. It is their job to make sure everything runs smoothly and that any problems are quickly solved without affecting the audience.

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Our lives are surrounded by sound. Have a listen now. Can you hear something? A washing machine whirring? People chatting? Birds singing? Even when we are talking, that isn’t the only sound around us. Think about an everyday conversation. Are there noises in the background? Probably. In the same way, in a play, we need to hear more than the spoken words.

The Sound Department adds these other sounds. This can help an audience know where the scene is set, what time it is, what the weather is and what the mood is like. Imagine an empty stage. You hear a subway train rattling past and a distant wailing police siren. With the aid of these simple sounds you’ve been transported to New York. A clock ticks and the refrigerator hums, we have established that we’re inside.

The Sound Department is responsible for all aspects of sound and communications for every production, and for the Company on tour. Every member of the department will be involved with the creating of a play whether as the Sound Designer, Sound Operator or as part of the crew rigging the many speakers, microphones and other equipment required. Sound is three dimensional, spatial, and it moves. By placing speakers in front, behind above and below our audiences and also inside and outside the Theatre module, the department plays an important part in enriching the audience's theatrical experience. The Sound Department also supports all Visiting Theatre Companies and Special Events that are organised in the Theatre.

Fascinating Facts: 

  • All the music and sound effects for the shows are stored on one disk no larger than a pack of playing cards!
  • We have a library of over 8,000 sound effects and our music library extends to around 500 CDs. Despite this, for every production, the Sound Department will often need to visit specific locations to record more.
  • To make the sound of birds flying away we recorded leather gloves slapping together
  • The average show uses over 70 speakers.

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