LIFE & LIVING
ISSUE NO: 157
As the curtain rises and the lights dim, the magic of the theatre comes to life before our eyes. But what happens backstage is a world of precision, organisation, and yes, a touch of danger. Tara Claxton has always worked as a freelancer until after the Covid pandemic, starting a permanent position for the first time in her career at Norwich Theatre Royal as Head of Operations and Company Stage manager on 16 March 2022. Tara is one of the unsung heros who orchestrate the seamless ballet that makes each performance a masterpiece.
With a career spanning two decades, Tara’s journey has taken her from the West End to the picturesque Lake District and even as far as New Zealand. Through it all, she’s been a beacon of strength and leadership in a section of the industry largely dominated by men.
“When the Covid lockdowns happened, I was touring and everything we were traveling with was abandoned. I had two suitcases with my belongings locked in the tour trailer for 18 months. As you can imagine, when I was reunited with them, the contents weren’t the best!” Tara shares, highlighting the challenges faced by those behind the scenes.
“Find your peace and make sure you make time for it. Also, you need to know that you are never right all the time, but you learn from experience; You have to believe and trust in yourself”
Having recently settled into her first permanent position at Norwich Theatre Royal, Tara’s role involves a delicate dance of scheduling, logistical coordination and budget management. She oversees a team of up to 50 people, ensuring everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be there.
Tara’s journey hasn’t always been a walk in the park. In a male-dominated industry, she’s had to prove herself time and again. “I have had times when touring, people assume that my male colleagues are in charge and will ignore me and talk to them instead. It doesn’t bother me too much as they soon come to realise that I am in charge. It’s kind of funny really,” she reflects with a knowing smile.
Moving back to her hometown of Norwich has brought Tara a sense of stability and belonging. “I have a lot of family here. I have been very lucky to have travelled around the world doing a job that I love, but it is really nice to be back in Norwich and have the stability of a permanent position,” she muses.
During the intense panto season, Tara and her team work tirelessly, putting in 60-80 hour weeks to ensure each show goes off without a hitch. Safety is paramount in this fast-paced, high-stakes environment, where heavy props and fly-ins are the norm.
After such an intensely stressful time and long hours, Tara finds solace in jazz and a good glass of red wine. “It’s all about how you find your peace. Everyone has something different and mine is listening to jazz, ideally with a glass of a good red,” she shares. Time spent at Ronnie Scott’s in London’s Soho is a treasured way for Tara to unwind.
On show nights, Tara’s calm voice guides the crew, ensuring every cue is hit flawlessly. “Before the curtain, there is chatter on the radio, but as soon as the show starts, it all falls silent and the only voice you will hear is the Stage Manager’s. The prompt copy is the Bible for the show and this is how we ensure nothing goes awry,” she explains.
For the stage managers of the future, Tara offers sage advice: “Find your peace and make sure you make time for it. Also, you need to know that you are never right all the time, but you learn from experience; You have to believe and trust in yourself.”
And if you weren’t involved in theatre would you want to do anything else? “No. I am so lucky to do what I do. I wouldn’t change it for anything,” she asserts. Not even if you won the lottery? “No… Not exactly. If I was lucky enough to win that kind of money, I would open my own theatre and give homeless people the opportunity to work within it. This would be a great way of helping and giving back but still being in the theatre, which I love.”
Tara Claxton is a testament to the strength and passion that drives the heart of the theatre industry. The magical performances on stage are enjoyed by us all, but rarely do we get to witness the hard work and professionalism backstage. With her unwavering dedication, she not only manages the logistics and operations of Norwich Theatre Royal but also stands as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring stage managers everywhere. Her story is one of resilience, talent, and an unbreakable love for the art of theatre.