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A blog by Daisy Williams – Volunteer turned Production Assistant

I started riffling through photos last week, trying to collect together the best ones with all the people I’ve met over the past three and a half years and it was amazing to stumble across pictures I didn’t even know I had. One in particular is the one shown here, from the day of the first production I saw by Theatr na nÓg; ‘You Should Ask Wallace.’ At the time I was a student in my final weeks at the University of Wales Trinity St David’s in Carmarthen and my lecturer was Ioan Hefin. We were rehearsing for our final production, and at the start of one rehearsal Ioan said; “Let’s not rehearse tomorrow, why don’t you all come and watch me perform a one man play instead?” (or something to that effect), and none of us were going to say no to that offer.

The performance was at The National Botanical Gardens of Wales where the new Wallace Bust was being unveiled that day in the Wallace Garden, which is where I first met the marvellous Alfred Russel Wallace. We travelled through his early life, his dislike of school and love of discovering things in library by himself, to meeting Henry Walter Bates and learning how to collect specimens; beetles, bugs and butterflies, to adventuring across the Amazon to create one of his most important collections. I was captivated.

Now if you’ve ever stepped foot into the na nÓg offices you’ll know that if anything coincidental or fateful happens it is branded ‘spooky’ and a large part of the day then will be spent on talking about how ‘spooky’ that thing is. Well, the evening before the performance, without knowing what company Ioan was performing with I had actually emailed Geinor, na nÓg’s Artistic Director about volunteering (*cue spooky music). I met Geinor a few weeks earlier when she came in to talk about the company and about a show she was Directing called TOM the Musical…

So, as I arrived at the Gardens that morning Ioan said; “I’ve got someone who wants to meet you,” (or something like that, this happened over 4 years ago now so I can’t remember his exact words) and after the performance I did indeed meet Geinor and our Production Manager Geraint.

Two weeks later I was in the office! I had made it, they let me in, I had got past the doors of a professional theatre company and they didn’t YET suspect I didn’t know a thing. I can’t remember what exactly I did that week, but I must have done something right as I was asked to come back for a few days the following week. Then the coolest thing ever happened; I got to help at the TOM auditions at the WMC. Now this doesn’t sound like a lot, but at the time being given a backstage pass around the WMC and taking actors from point A to point B for their auditions was the coolest thing that had happened in my thus far short career. At one point as I was showing one person in and one person out, I hovered around outside the audition room, and I can tell you the guy in there belting out ‘It’s Not Unusual’ was amazing. I can’t remember who it was, but I just knew that if that was the standard na nÓg were working with, this show was going to be epic.

Then I had to go off and actually try and earn some money, and I got an acting job for a few weeks, but I knew come hell or high water (that phrase is ironic as I was performing on the ferry between Holyhead and Dublin as a children’s entertainer… but I can’t talk about that now…) I wanted to be involved in one way, shape or form with TOM the Musical and I think up to that point I had managed to hide how much I loved Tom Jones from Geinor. I probably only managed to keep that a secret until September 2nd 2015 though…the day after I started working for the company.

I had emailed Geinor a few weeks before I was due to come back from North Wales and asked if she needed any more help in the office, then once I got back I had spent a day running around Cardiff handing out CV’s in various shops looking for a job, I got a phonecall from Geinor where she offered me a position at the company for two days a week. I was standing outside Crabtree & Evelynn at the time and if we had been in a movie, the moment I hung up the phone the camera would have panned from my face to above my head as the music started playing as I spun on the spot with my arms outstretched, and the wind started blowing in my hair dramatically… Anyway, I didn’t actually spin on the spot but you get the idea, I felt like a weight had been lifted, that I’d got my foot in the door.

I will say coming into a company and the first production you start working on is a UK no 1 tour is pretty intimidating, especially when you have a cast and team that are honestly the most talented bunch I’ve ever met and you’re there like the spare part in the corner. BUT I had the most amazing mentor, the incandescent Sara Lewis! She was amazing, I think she could tell when I didn’t have a clue what was going on and would quietly take me aside and give me a lovely little job to do away from the madness of it all.

Then in January 2016 we set up the Young Ambassador team, one of the things I’m most proud to have come out of my time working at na nÓg. It was a chance to let young people volunteer and get their start in the company like I had. They started by helping us on TOM, collecting data from our audiences and then played roles in ‘The Amazing Adventures of Wallace and Bates.’ Over the past 3 years we have opened the door to around 60 young people through the Young Ambassador scheme, and I love now keeping up to date on everything that they’ve moved on to do.

I am so lucky to have been a part of na nÓg, starting as a volunteer then becoming a full-time member of staff. It’s been fun and hard and mind-boggling at times and I have made connections and friendships for life. The Board have always been amazing, the Ambassadors and of course the core team in the office who I’ve worked with everyday. I’ve done a number of different jobs; flyering, finding schools who’ve gotten lost coming to see our shows, made endless cups of tea, gone on tour and even stood in as Stage Manager at the last minute (which I find incredibly cool and still brag about now if I’m honest).

Out of everyone I’ve worked with I have to especially thank Geinor. Thank you for taking a chance on me all those years ago and making a phone call that literally changed my life at a time when I wasn’t sure where I fitted in this industry.

Anyway, although I’m leaving at the end of the month, this is just ‘see you soon,’ not a goodbye. You see they have to let me back, I’m the only one who knows where I’ve hidden the cameras…

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