Newcastle High Stage, Mark 3: Stage-by-Stage

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‘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.

Paul Brown at work extending the stage area in November 2015.
Paul Brown at work extending the staging, March 30th 2016.

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.

In flashlight, the original stage is clearer.
In flashlight, the lower stage is clearly visible.

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.

The new steps in the last office created in the eaves.
New steps in the last office created in the south gable eaves.

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.

April 7th: the curved stage extension is already in place by now and the stair section is about to be added.
April 7th: the curved stage extension is all in place by now and the access stairs are just about to be added.  The two men on stage are surveying the site of the old door, stage right.
A joiner begins work on the steps.
A joiner beginning to create the set of steps.
The position of the old raised doorway stage right is now marked by a vertical radiator.
The position of the old doorway stage-right is soon to be marked by a vertical radiator.
At the base of the new vertical radiator, the original, semi-circle Newcastle High stage can still be seen.
At the base of the newly installed vertical radiator, the original semi-circular Newcastle High platform can still be seen.
By the time the steps are installed, a vertical radiator marks the site of both Church High stage doors.
By the time the slats of the steps are being installed, a vertical radiator marks the site of both Church High stage entrances.

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.

Backstage at the Staff Panto in December 2013.
Backstage corridor during the Staff Panto, Dec 2013 with the original door stage-left open.
The stage from the back entrance stage-left. The guard-rail was added after Mrs Thew took a tumble down the stairs while searching for the light-switch one winter morning.
The stage from the back entrance stage-left. The guard-rail was added by Gentian after Mrs Thew took a tumble down the stairs in search of the light-switch early one morning.
The second door stage-right (a later addition within the panel-work) was only opened for performances and was only accessible by steps.
The second door stage-right (a later addition, discretely created within the stage panel-work) was only opened up for performances.

Aspen Joinery completed installing the bespoke stairs on April 7th.

The new bespoke platform steps take shape.
The new bespoke platform steps take shape.

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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.

A lower level is added to the curved tiering stage-right (above). The end product was a well-crafted, high standard finish (below).
A lower level is added to the tiering stage-right (above). The end product was a well-crafted, high standard finish (below).

april-11th-stage-10I 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 the centre of the picture, a small section of panelling reveals how the Newcastle High School Hall originally looked.
Towards the right, a small section of unpainted panelling reveals how the Newcastle High School Hall originally looked.

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.

The transformation of the north end of the Church High Hall into a Sixth Form Common Room for NHSG.
The north, stage end of the Church High Hall is now transformed into a raised seating area for the NHSG Sixth Form Common Room.

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