Anna Setchell, deputy technical manager

 4 July 2016

Anna worked her way up to being a deputy technical manager through being a stage manager with touring shows. She outlines her career journey and offers 3 top tips for getting into this area of backstage work.

"It's down to me to make sure that we are show ready in time!"


I was born in Norfolk and now I currently live in Brighton.

What is your job?

I am a deputy technical manager at the Theatre Royal Brighton.

How did you become a technical manager?

I've always had a passion for drama, and when I went on to sixth form I was asked to get a two week placement somewhere. I applied to work in the Theatre Royal Norwich and luckily they accepted my application. I enjoyed it so much and took to it like I had been doing casual stage work all my life.

From that experience, I was offered more work from Theatre Royal Norwich on a casual basis and ended up never going back to sixth form.

I love the variety of my job. No two days are ever the same

From there I went to the drama school LAMDA where I was lucky enough to be the stage manager for their touring show in Holland for six weeks. I got a real bug for touring work so when I left drama school I started applying for touring jobs in The Stage newspaper.

The first job I landed was for a company called Music Theatre London (formally known as Opera 80). I spent two seasons touring Holland again for their 12-week tours. Then through Music Theatre London, I jumped over to English Touring Opera.

They had a much bigger set up with a full orchestra and I did six spring and autumn seasons around the UK with them and six summer seasons at Holland Park Opera.

Sometimes it's word of mouth that can get you these opportunities and networking is a real must in this industry. You have to actively search work out, it won't just come to you.

After nearly seven years in opera, I turned to musicals and was fortunate enough to get on The Rocky Horror Picture Show tour. After another eight years of touring on various musical shows, I got my residential job at the Theatre Royal Brighton which I absolutely adore.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a Diploma in Stage Management & Technical Theatre from LAMDA where I studied.

What do you do for your job?

I spend around 80 per cent of the week in the office going through technical riders (show information) of the forthcoming touring shows that are coming to our theatre. This means working out the costs and requirements for the fit up and get out and also what show staff will be needed. For example: will the tour need dressers or follow spot operators?

Networking is a real must in this industry.

We are a Hemp House Theatre and our building is 209 years old so I really have to think about our grid load which is only a mere 2500kg!

I'm also head of stage, so for this I run fit ups and get ins to make sure they run smoothly, safely and to schedule.

I work under extreme timing a lot of the time as it's down to me to make sure that we are show-ready in time!

What is the best thing about your job?

I love the variety of my job. No two days are ever the same and nor are the people I work with.

And the worst thing?

The worst thing about the job can be the money and what you earn for your work.

How do I become a technical manager? 

1. Try to get work experience in a working theatre and within a team as close to technical management as possible.

2. Go to a credited drama school where you can learn and train.

3. Try to get as much casual work and experience as you can.


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