My Weekend

28 Aug 10 - Daily Telegraph, Australia -

Paul Mansfield: Imperial Ice Stars production manager

If you don't see Paul Mansfield during Swan Lake On Ice, you'll know he's doing his job well. As production manager his work is all about making sure the show runs smoothly. He studied a university degree in technical theatre before starting as lighting manager with the Imperial Ice Stars. He is now the production manager and has travelled to Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore with the troupe.

Saturday: I am in at the theatre by 11am. By that time the skaters have been on the ice for an hour and we have to dress the ice. It needs to be completely scraped down flat again and then a new layer of water put on to it before the 2pm show. Everything gets a thorough going over. The flying equipment we are most careful about. We set up all of the scenery to make sure that's OK.

I'm usually moving around when the curtain goes up. About once a week I'll watch the show from an audience perspective. There's an interval about an hour into the show. We have to take all the scenery out, re-scrape and dress the ice again and we do that usually in front of the audience.

About 5pm we go out together and have some food. Then we do the whole process again in the evening, testing everything prior to the show at 7.30pm. It finishes about 9.50pm and again we have to do ice maintenance: a new layer of water put down and left to freeze overnight. We usually leave the building about 10.15pm. We go to a bar but Saturday night really isn't a party night for us. Sunday is a really big day for us.

Sunday: If it's the end of the run [please note, the Sydney season does not finish until next weekend], Sunday is the day we move the show. The second show starts about 5pm and finishes at 7.30pm. We have to take everything out of the building and load it into trucks and get ready to move it to the next city. We have 15 extra local crew turn up to help us get the ice out of the theatre (12 tonnes of ice). That involves breaking it up, shovelling it into wheelbarrows and putting it into skips.

We then have to roll up the mat which is what makes the ice cold. It is a whole bunch of rubber tubing that runs fiat across the stage. The first truck will come into the dock of whatever theatre we are in. The lighting department drop all of their equipment over the stage, then we drop some of the scenery, the cloth. That all goes into the first trailer ... another trailer takes the harder scenery - the props, a fountain, a couple of statues. We have to carpet the backstage so the skates don't get damaged and they don't damage floors.

We're usually carrying eight rolls of carpet with us. The final trailer comes in and takes the ice rink equipment - three big chillers, matting and the wood around the rink about 3am. Then home to bed for a few hours before we fly out the following morning.

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