The Bedlam stage is a black box space, without many of the features you find in larger theatres. This article will provide and overview of the stages structure, how to maintain it and how to use it most effectively. Separate articles will deal with major maintenance projects like re-skinning and replacing.
It measures 29'1" by 17' and the rig is 12'6" above it at the centre and more like 12' at the balconies. It is advised that no set is taller than 10’ so as not to affect the lighting adversely. There are two small trap doors on stage both near the centre line one far upstage and one about centre. Limited access is through the crypt for anyone willing to crawl through the sand and dust. There is a "grill" lid for the centre door which allows smoke and (a small amount of) light out from the crypt and the feet of actors down.
There are two stage exits, both upstage far stage left and right, leading to the dressing room situated between these exits. The dressing room doubles as the stage exit walk through. The stage left wall can be a curtain of blacks allowing straight access into the stage cupboard or an extension of stage space. This area has also been used as an orchestra or band pit.
The stage is basically a huge frame made of 12"x3" timbers running from North to South. These are crossed at 90 degrees by similar timbers.
The load bearing floor of the stage is made of 18mm tongue and groove floorboards. These are deteriorating as each re-skinning makes more and more holes. Additionally, some were laid incorrectly and subside over the year whilst others are cracked from impacts. These should be removed before Fringe every year and replaced with good quality 18mm plywood.
The skin is made of 3.2mm sheets of hardboard tacked to tongue and groove floorboards with standard headed wire nails. The hardboard needs replaced every year or so a process called "re-skinning".
In the past the stage was painted with normal black vinyl matt emulsion. This tended to be quite shiny. Mal bough special Theatre Paint from Flints for Fringe '08 which is much blacker. We should use this from now on if at all possible.
The easiest way to paint the stage is to dilute the paint with 25% water which makes it easy to spread. The speed record stands at 4 minutes, 2 seconds which was set half an hour before the first show of fringe 2001 by two people. If in a very serious rush, paint can be diluted with hot water and mopped on (use an old mop you don't want back).
NB. The first few coats of paint after re-skinning should be done undiluted and it helps to mix some (no more than 10%) cheap PVC glue into the paint to toughen it.
If the ceiling falls down report it to the Works department who should come in and repair it.
The back wall of the stage was rebuilt for fringe 1999 so people shouldn’t be screwing into it. There are two bolt holes which can be used for anchoring to it, there is a 2"x4" beam which fits exactly and will hold an elephant. This lives on the Balconies.
The floorboards are full of holes and really need replaced but it won't be cheap, a few of the worst were replaced during re-skinning fringe 2002.