Talking Technical: Interview with Technical and Stage Manager, Andy

Student Ambassador and Technical Theatre student, Sam Dickinson, caught up with our Technical and Stage Manager, Andy Nairn, about his role and his advice to budding technicians! Watch out for more 'Talking Technical' blogs from Sam over the next few months!

My name is Andy Nairn and I am the Technical Manager for Derby Theatre. My job covers many areas of the work we do at Derby Theatre. Primarily it is my job to speak to visiting companies, hirers, designers, directors and technical staff to ensure that the work you see at the theatre is delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner. I have a team of 5 people below me with a casual pool of around 25 people that support our work as required. I attend meetings with in house staff to ensure everyone is up to speed on all activities and also deliver our learning programme to university students, local schools, and to our Young Technicians. 

I started off in this industry working in LX and then fell into working Stage a few years ago and stuck with it. I trained on the job and covered all aspects of technical. I ended up in technical management as I wanted a more senior position and also to be able to not have to work evenings all the time! 

The favourite part of my job is breaking a set down and either putting it in a lorry or into a skip. There is something quite impressive about how quickly a set comes down and the stage is returned to nothing. The other thing is it’s great fun breaking a set-up, helps get all your frustrations out in a controlled manner! It’s also usually a much more relaxed environment so everyone seems to have more fun.

I started in this industry back in Norfolk where I volunteered as a general technician at a local theatre doing LX, Sound, Stage, Props, Bar, everything. When I came to university at Derby I came straight to the then Derby Playhouse and got work as a casual member of the LX team. I worked fit-ups and get-outs and follow spotted pretty much every show at the playhouse. 6 months before I finished my degree I was offered a full time job as Deputy Head of Stage at Derby Playhouse. I did this for almost a year before the Playhouse went bankrupt. I then worked as a builders labourer for 6 months while I waited for a job to come up. I then got a job with Nottingham Playhouse as stage technician where I was for 6 years. Whilst there I toured 3 major productions around the UK. Finally back in 2014 I left Nottingham and came to work back here at Derby Theatre. 

If people are looking to get into this industry my advice is simple, do as much as you can, in as many venues as you can, across all departments. Theatre is still a surprisingly small industry and the more contacts you make the easier it is to find work. Also working in theatre requires a lot of borrowing and helping each other out, having good contacts makes life a lot easier.  You must have a good sense of humour and be willing to work long unsociable hours at very short notice. If you make yourself indispensable and are a reliable person then you will quickly get picked up for full time or freelance work.

Watch the technical in action on our latest production, Two...

Find out more about our learning opportunities in Technical Theatre here.