‘All the world’s a stage,’ said Jacques in ‘As You Like It.’ However, at NHSG, the old stage is a stage no more. It is now merely a raised platform area in the Sixth Form Common Room. In the above image, taken in October 2015 after the north end Honours Boards were removed by Wates, the Church High stage layout is still recognisable from the two bricked up doorways, stage left and right. Yet only one of these, the one to the right, is original. You can still see the stairwell in front of it – site of more than one dramatic calamity over the years. I’d never really considered why it was like that until I talked to Paul Brown, one of the joiners, recently. He mentioned in passing something I should have realised from old photos. There’s actually an earlier – semi-circular – low-level stage underneath.
As Paul did the initial joinery work needed to extend the stage, it was he who removed the ply-board at the front. When we talked back on Tankerville Terrace, he said he wished he’d mentioned it to me at the time so I could have taken photographs. However, if you look closely at the images above and below, I actually captured the first stage in March without realising it. God is kind.
Giuseppe told me that the new, shaped extension to the old staging is his favourite modern architectural element of the renovated Tankerville building. The company who provided this specialist joinery service in April were Aspen Joinery. Neil and his brother, Dave, also re-modelled the steps in the eaves Marketing Office too.
Although the specialist joinery work was carried out in April when I was still allowed access to the building, on my visits I only saw the very start and the end of this process for myself. However, as Giuseppe was on site inspecting work on the 7th, 8th and 11th April, the photos he took document the transformation of the stage more effectively – and more dramatically – than I could ever have done.
When I first joined Church High, the door stage-left was the way Miss Davies always entered the Hall for whole school assembly each morning. The heavy clunk of the door closing and the sound of her foot-fall in the back stairwell which lead up to the stage was the School’s cue to fall silent before the hymn number was announced. Both entrance doors were used during school plays, of course. However, as large-scale musicals became prevalent in recent years necessitating a bigger stage area, the final time the Church High stage was used for a dramatic performance was the 2013 Staff Panto. If you never got to enjoy the backstage area mid-show, the following photos I took during that last pantomime give you some idea.
Aspen Joinery completed installing the bespoke stairs on April 7th.
The next stage of Aspen’s work was to add a further level of tiering to the newly-extended platform creating a high standard finish.
I was fascinated to see in one of Giuseppe’s photos that creating this lower tier stage-right revealed a small section of unpainted dark wood panelling. This is how the Hall would have looked originally.
In my next post I intend to take you on a trip down memory lane as far as the School Hall is concerned, but, for now, I will leave you with two final images. Firstly, how the ‘Mark 3’ stage looked when Aspen had completed their work on April 26th followed by the finished product: the raised seating area of the NHSG Sixth Form Common Room as it appeared on Church High Alumnae Open Day.