The New Vic’s maintenance team play a vital part at the theatre. They are backstage heroes who keep the building and grounds in tip-top condition, all year round. During the coronavirus pandemic, our Maintenance Technician Mike Unwin and Maintenance Assistant Rory Evans have been working really hard to do this, even while the building is closed to the public.
In this Q&A we catch up with them both, find out more about their jobs, and what they are looking forward to this year.
What is your career background and how did you get your jobs at the New Vic?
Mike: I began my career as an engineering apprentice, making machinery for the pottery industry. I worked at several pottery manufacturers maintaining the machinery and buildings but sadly, most of these companies have disappeared since the 1980s. I came to work at the New Vic theatre in 1992.
Rory: I started on a six-month Future Jobs Fund programme, and ended up keeping the job! I have now been working here 11 years.
Tell us what your jobs usually entail day-to-day…
Rory: My job involves maintaining the building and grounds, to keep them in good condition. I also help build the shows sometimes, support the ‘get-in’ (when the set is fitted into place for a production) and ‘get-out’, as well as assisting other departments that need a hand.
Mike: It could be anything from repairing or unblocking a toilet, to inspecting the roof, repairing carpets or doors, cutting hedges or liaising with contractors. There is a lot of equipment to be tested and inspected.
How has your job changed during the past year?
Rory: My job has stayed pretty much the same. I have been in most of the time doing building checks. While the auditorium refurbishment was happening I helped a lot of the contractors too, as I know the building like the back of my hand.
What have you been doing to look after the New Vic building and grounds while the building is closed to the public?
Mike: The car park and grounds went a bit wild without the usual foot fall on it, so we’ve been keeping on top of that. The sterilisation and flushing of water services has needed extra attention, and there has been less testing and inspection of equipment too, as the building has generally had less use over the past year.
Tell us something that people wouldn’t expect about your role…
Mike: The maintenance team assist with building some of the theatre sets, and occasionally take over the set building, say if one of the workshop staff are ill.
What has been your highlight of working at the New Vic so far?
Rory: I made some suitcases for the 2018 Christmas production of The Wind in the Willows which were used in the show a LOT!
Mike: I like constructing or repairing something that is here years later, so I can see how it is still holding up.
What are you most looking forward to when the New Vic reopens?
Mike: I’m looking forward to seeing more people! There have been a lot of contractors at the theatre during the past year due to the refurbishment, but we’ve have had to keep a distance, and some of the time the maintenance team were the only people in the building.
How have you been keeping yourself happy in lockdown?
Rory: I have been working through all the lockdowns, which has kept me busy and given me a bit of routine.
Mike: I cycle and run quite a bit, so the extra time off has allowed me to do more of that.