SOPHIE PIERCE: The incredible bond of the stage

Sophie Pierce

I once spent every night of a fortnight cooking spaghetti bolognese from scratch, watched by hundreds of people.

I chopped an onion, fried garlic, stirred tomatoes, boiled water and cooked pasta, all while trying to deliver a three-page monologue without setting fire to either myself, my fellow actor, or the stage I was standing on.

I, like so many others, am a member of Wokingham Theatre.

Too often I hear residents of the borough are surprised to discover we have a theatre in the town.

This always confuses me, considering we are famed for often having sold-out shows over our two-week runs.

But it’s because once they’ve discovered us, people keep coming back.

Hidden as this gem may be within the town’s crown jewels, it shines no less brightly on those, like me, who consider it home.

I first knocked on the theatre’s doors a few years ago, still-snotty-nosed from a break-up, and looking for a tribe to take me in.

Luckily for me, the theatre opened its arms to me.

Since then, it has become my classroom, my playground and my family. I met my housemate on day one of my first play, when we both had walk-on roles in Frost/Nixon and subsequently spent almost the entire production giggling in the wings.

After two weeks of knowing each other and both in need of a housemate, she agreed to move in.

Three years later, our house is as full of laughter as ever, despite the fact we so often pass like ships in the night with the various rehearsals we’re both involved in.

Whatever the play being put on in each season – and we do between eight and 10 a year – one thing that is consistent is the people.

The theatre relies entirely on volunteers to operate; whether it’s actors, directors, sound and lighting, set builders, wardrobe, props, publicity or front of house, everyone gives their time because they love it so much.

It is very much a team effort, with a group of people who just get it.

Friends and family show their support, they dutifully come and watch each show and they indulge my need for picking it apart in the bar afterwards.

But to be among Wokingham Theatre folk is to be among your own kind.

Doing a show together forges this incredible bond; no matter how much time has passed, you’ll always have that experience of standing together while wardrobe wizards rip off one costume as another is being put over your head in what can only be described as the most stressful few seconds of your life. There’s nothing like it.

I’m very lucky to be involved in the theatre in a number of ways.

As an actor, I have experienced the sensation of being brothers in arms as part of a cast, as well as being toys for the crews to play with, whether that’s in a Wall Street trading floor, a Jane Austen ballroom, or a London flat at night.

As a board member, I have seen how considered every decision is that promotes the future well-being of this amazing little place.

And as a director, I get to work with the frankly incredible crews who agonise over every stitch, bolt and special effect as well as the talented actors who bring stories to life.

I am currently directing the February production of Goodnight Mr Tom, (don’t worry, this isn’t a plug, as it sold out within five days of going on sale) and I can honestly say I walk away from every rehearsal with joy in my heart.

If you’ve never watched a show at Wokingham Theatre before, I urge you to look us up and see if there’s something you fancy.

And if, like me, you’re someone who is looking for a tribe to belong to, get in touch with us. You don’t have to act or even build anything, you could just show your support by being a member.

But one word of warning: you never know what theatre life will throw at you. I still can’t look at an onion in the same way.

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Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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