Returning to the Road
24 Aug 2020
At first glance, the needs of a national theatre company and a national gin company may seem worlds apart, but one thing they do have in common is movement. Just as Bell Shakespeare would normally move a national tour across the country, so too, would Archie Rose Distilling Co in creating pop-up bars at festivals and cultural events in almost every state and territory across Australia.
Great partnerships are not only about creative collaboration, but about sharing expertise and experiences. As Archie Rose says, ‘spirits are best shared’, so too is knowledge.
An interview with Harriet Leigh (Head of Hospitality, Archie Rose) and Nick Toll (Technical Supervisor, Bell Shakespeare).
Congratulations both on finishing the touring bar! It must feel like an accomplishment in a time of significantly less activity.
Firstly, Harriet tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Archie Rose.
I’m the Head of Hospitality at Archie Rose, so I oversee bars and events. I do bits of marketing and am involved with some of the partnerships, such as Bell Shakespeare.
It’s been a struggle this year for many of our partnerships as most of them are unable to operate. It’s been a strange year for everybody.
Nick, what do you do at Bell Shakespeare?
I’m the Technical Supervisor for the company. One of my major jobs is to facilitate the technical requirements for events and productions. Anything to do with lighting, stage, sound sits with me.
Harriet: You are also the chief touring bar builder, aren’t you Nick?
Harriet, what exactly is a touring bar and why did you need it?
Archie Rose do an awful lot of events. With Bell Shakespeare we do events in your Rehearsal Room and your opening night parties at the theatre, and your annual Gala. We are always bumping in and out of weird, awkward spaces. Daniel Murtagh, former Head of Production at Bell Shakespeare came up with the idea of using an elevated road case as a transformer – turning into a bar in a matter of seconds. Nick has now pimped it out with some electrical power parts for lighting and iPad chargers. It’s got an ice well and drawers for backup booze.
It looks like a cool road case that roadies chuck in and out of touring trucks. We can literally turn up at a venue, roll the case in, pop the lid and start serving cocktails straight away.
Nick, what are the practical advantages of basing the design of the bar on our touring road cases?
Road cases are designed to be taken all over the country, so they are structurally very rigid, strong and durable allowing for all the contents inside to be safely secured. The other benefits are the reduced set up time, and the ability for ultimate customisation, such as charging devices.
Bell Shakespeare travels all over Australia touring nationally. Nick, what are the weird and wonderful things you’d normally find in one of our road cases?
Generally, we have a whole variety of useful things; routers, surplus saws, hand saws, basic carpentry tools. Sometimes a show will require something unique. In Titus Andronicus, we used condoms to protect the microphones from all the fluids used in the production. You have to come up with some pretty crazy solutions to protect our things!
Archie Rose ambassadors also have a presence across Australia. What features of the touring bar will make it easier at festivals?
Harriet: Their sturdiness will be the most useful advantage. My ambassadors seem to do an incredible amount of damage to everything when they are out on the road, as I’m sure is a common story with most travelling crews. These road cases look completely indestructible. They can be pulled in and out of lifts, up and down stairwells.
I learned that road cases last 20-25 years. You do need to replace the wheels as they wear down bouncing around in the back of a truck for long journeys. Otherwise, they’ll go for years and years. It’s amazing. Things aren’t built to last anymore – but Bell’s bars sure will!
What was the trickiest part of the build or design?
Harriet: Probably the biggest challenge was how time poor we both are. It’s made it a really long job. One of the perks of COVID-19 is that we have both being doing less work enabling us to finish off the project.
Nick: Getting all the correct gear and specific fit-outs was a challenge. We started with a domestic sink and built the case around that. Also, doing all the power calculations to figure out how long the LED lighting would last, how long you could charge the iPads for before draining the battery.
How long did the entire process take, from the absolute beginning to now?
Harriet: It’s been a bit over a year. We’ve both been super busy and neither party had been pushing it too hard. Bell Shakespeare would be gearing up for a production, or Archie Rose would have a product launching. Since February there hasn’t been a demand for the bar to be finished by a deadline, so a lot of stress was alleviated.
Harriet, as Head of Hospitality, you have had a lot to do with the partnership, and you’ve said yourself that you are a bit of a Shakespeare buff. What do you enjoy most about our partnership?
I’ve always loved the theatre. If I hadn’t gone into booze, I would have gone into set design. I always loved seeing that as a kid. Partnering with Bell Shakespeare lets me see all the behind the scenes things I love; seeing all the 3D models from the rehearsal room and then six months later seeing the actual play come to life.
I’m devastated that you had to cancel Hamlet. Harriet Gordon-Anderson as Hamlet nailed the sword fighting. One of the things I love most about all the gender play in Shakespeare is that you often see women doing things like that.
What’s the first thing you look forward to when we can eventually get back to touring?
Harriet: I want to go to the theatre! I want to go see something at Sydney Opera House or do something special.
Nick: I miss the sense of normalcy. As great as it is to work from home, wearing comfy clothes and taking 30 seconds to get into ‘the office’, the novelty is wearing off. I miss being able to see everyone in person.
Harriet, if you were a Shakespeare character, who would you be and why?
The 2020 answer would be Lady Macbeth, because I have a very tenuous grasp on my sanity right now.
Probably the more genuine answer is Sir Toby Belch. A lovable drunk. Somewhat charming and a little bit dumb.
Nick, if you were an Archie Rose cocktail, what would you be and why?
I’d be an old fashioned because they are classy!
Archie Rose is proud to be the Exclusive Spirits Partner of Bell Shakespeare.