Yesterday was our first day at The Royal Melbourne Show. We got up very early so we could drive in and unload our van between 8.00-8.30am. The stage itself was not much different from what you saw in the 'Site Check' photo. It did have a roof (and lots of big speakers), and it had a back wall... but the back wall was see through and the roadies were cutting holes in it so the wind could flow freely though. There were no side walls on the stage, but there were little tents on either side of the stage which we thought would make great wings... but one was for the foldback sound operator and the other was for storing the roadcases the speakers came in...
There were no stairs at the front of the stage, which meant that any volunteers we chose (by pointing them out) had to be brought around the back of the stage through the security fence and up the back stairs.
It was quite a challenging situation.
As the stage was created specifically for the bands that play at night it was a perfect band stage. Not so hot for magic during the day. (Add to this the fact that a drum riser was placed in the centre of the stage giving us quite a lot less depth than we anticipated).
We had been pressing for diagrams of the set up so we'd be prepared, but so had the people who booked us. I think they were just as surprised at the lack of walls etc as we were.
So... for the first hour or so we erected the smoke chamber by unpacking it on the grass behind the stage and taking it up the narrow backstage stairs piece by piece and assembling it on stage. The PA guys were kind enough to move the drum riser back about four foot which helped too.
The wind was the biggest problem. If you've seen the first ten minutes of Sue-Anne's Jeannie act you'll know it features a floating table and dancing handkerchief. In the end we had to decide to simply drop that routine.
Getting volunteers up was going to really slow the act down too, so we started the show with me bringing the volunteers up, having them examine the smoke chamber, then Jeannie appearing while they sat next to the chamber, and having her go straight into a comic routine where she teaches them how to do a rope trick. From there we did some quick banter featuring the vanishing pot plant and the magnet phone before I called up another volunteer and we did the classic funnel routine. After that (believe it or not 22 minutes already!) I told Jeannie she had to go so she performed her sand pour then got back into the smoke chamber and disappeared.
Overall, it went down very well. It was worth the huge effort of bringing the smoke chamber (and having to wait until 10.30pm before we could get the van in to bump it out again). Our main concern was the weather. Thankfully our prayers were answered and there was no rain, especially as we had to take all of our gear out of the dressing rooms at 6pm and leave it on the grass behind the stage until we could bring the van in to get it! The wind did cause a few problems, so I'm really glad we didn't try to do the opening routine. Jeannie's sand pour was more like a sand-storm in the second show, and the funnel trick became funnier than usual when the wind caused the stream of milk pouring out of the funnel to go horizontally towards the volunteer rather than straight down and into the bucket!
Overall though, it was a good day. There were some big crowds (especially for Dorothy the Dinosaur!) and they got me to act as MC for the day, reving up the audience and letting them know what was coming up next between all the acts. It's REALLY windy today, so let's pray for great weather on Saturday when we go in with four illusions and a one hour show!