Making It Safe

Here are a few pointers to ensure that your show is as safe as it can possibly be, knowing that you will be working with people and understanding that the human body breaks very easily.

Always personally check the chairs and stage you will be using. I have seen chairs held together with masking tape and string or of the folding variety and stages with potholes that would put some Maltese roads to shame. Remember that you have no idea who will be joining you on your performance area. You have no idea how they will be dressed. Some women still wear high-heeled shoes. A stiletto will find a small hole very easily and a broken ankle brings things to an abrupt halt.

Check and double check everything and I do mean everything. I once worked a club where without stretching I could easily reach up and touch the low-slung lighting gantry. No discernible problem you may think but I am six feet one inch tall and could easily have one or two people on stage that may be taller. Now if I did a routine such as a ballet dancer where you would expect arms to be thrown upwards and even the odd enthusiastic leap, then remember that after being on for half an hour those lights will be red hot. On this occasion needless to say I dropped the ballet and a couple of other routines before a single paying customer had set foot in the place.

It is also my experience that the places you would expect to feel most comfortable in are often not the safest. You would expect that theatres with reputations to uphold are wonderfully safe. Most are until you consider the orchestra pit and its twelve-foot drop to a hard concrete floor. Or the beautiful backdrop cyclorama behind which is stacked; everything from maintenance scaffolding to the castle from last weeks Shakespeare production. One of your friends on stage deciding to hide behind there for some reason could end as a hefty law suit for you and the venue. The venue will naturally blame you for 'telling' them to go behind there and they will probably win. If that happens then I believe that you should lose because you should have been aware of any dangers and ensured that no one would even think about going near them.

By far the easiest way of making things safe is to define your performance area, your stage, in a physical way. I always carry 2" wide white plastic tape. I place this on the stage at a safe limit from drops etc. For instance if you are working a theatre the tape should be placed a minimum of two metres from the edge of the stage and at the wings and back. I then constantly deliver the suggestion when the volunteers are doing something that requires them to move around that they will not cross the white line unless specifically told to do so by the hypnotist.

If the stage is accessed from front of house by steps make sure there is an adequate handrail or that the venue supplies staff to ensure the safety of people using the steps. If the people are not hypnotised then the venue, and not you, are responsible for their safety.

To make sure that you never become victim of a legal action for physical injury; arrive early and spend time checking everything and insist on things being put into good order. Never trust anyone to do it for you; it's your neck on the line.

If you use assistants make sure that they are trained well in all aspects of safety, and then double check everything yourself.

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