The Blakeney Players are a thriving theatre group located up on the beautiful North Norfolk coast. Although an amateur group our Award Winning Summer and Christmas productions sell out to a maximum “village hall” capacity of 200 seats over several nights. All scripts are expertly written in house, and involve complex stage set changes, props and costumes, live musicians, expertly choreographed dance routines, theatrically pyrotechnics, state of the art lighting, sound effects and precise comedic timing. If it can be done - the Blakeney Players do it. Everyone goes home with a foot tapping song in their head and a smile on their face.
Although, not a West End Theatre company or a large commercial plc, the demands we place on ourselves, and of course, our equipment are no less exacting.
Each show involves no less than 50 people. To achieve our success, constant, coordinated and precise communication between the back-stage team during a performance is absolutely essential. These are principally, the Stage Manager and his 5 stage crew, the sound engineer, the band leader and the lighting control box. They all need to work in constant and coordinated communication.
Discrete, but crystal clear communication, is mission critical. Previously, we used traditional walkie-talkie handsets, belt worn, with a wired microphone headset. The handsets and battery packs were bulky and the head-sets and cabling obtrusive. Stagehands manoeuvring fast scene changes in tight spaces and handling props often had problems with snagging cables and loss of communication. The backstage noise level during a full-on chorus song and tap-dance routine is high. Crackly, single channel communication often blocked out essential and instantly required messaging. An accidentally left open-channel blocked the whole communication system.
In 2014, we decided enough was enough and set out to find a better communication system that would satisfy our high demands. We tested several bluetooth and conventional radio systems, but these failed to impress. It was on a shopping trips around nearby Homebase (Cromer) and the newly opened Tesco’s (Sheringham) we noticed their staff seemed to be able to communicate very discreetly and efficiently with very simple and light-weight looking headsets. No wires, belt packs or battery packs. For Homebase and Tesco, like us, “audience satisfaction” is a number 1 priority and, as big national companies, they are unlikely to mess around with second best. Their helpful staff confirmed a high level of satisfaction with the product and soon pointed us in the direction of Voicepage.
We suspect Voicepage were a little surprised to receive a call from a small upstart Am-Dram group, but they were very helpful and gave good advice.
We soon acquired a 5 headset unit and used it for the first time in our Christmas 2014 production.
The crew were delighted. Setup was very simple and performance in use flawless. The headsets are lightweight, unobtrusive and easy to wear. Battery life is excellent and easy communication crystal clear throughout the confines of our large building. The out-of-range warnings only kicked in when we tested it to the far end of the carpark.
Following our 2015 Summer Production we found the kit so useful we have now opted to upgrade and double the size of our system to 10 headsets.
For our application, Voicepage is perfect for its simplicity in setup, the super-light headsets that are unobtrusive and blend seamlessly into the background and most importantly the crystal clear and easy communication that lets us “forget about the kit” and get on with the job in hand.