Another Year, Another Red Carpet. 1 May 2013 What it's like to manage arrivals at the theatre industry's biggest annual event.

You’d think it would be oh so simple. A person gets out of a car, walks from one end of a red carpet that stretches half the length of Bow Street to the other, and goes inside. On the way they stop for autographs, an interview or two, some photos. One last wave to the fans and they’re gone. Let’s just see that again in slow motion...

The roads are closed, security are on standby. The calm before the storm. The media area is neatly roped off and the signs tell us where everyone needs to be. It’s a good two hours before the event start time and, so far, it’s not raining. We are all better prepared this year, we have coats.

In 2012, before any guests had arrived, we were assembled for a briefing and it began to hail. In April. Temperatures were very near the freezing mark and we all thought coats were for cissies. Our hands were barely able to manage a final leaf through the aide memoire by the time the first celebrities hit the carpet.

This year, though there was a chilly breeze, it stayed dry. A manageable trickle at first, guests began to emerge. The team at the far end of the carpet had a much noisier time than the rest of us as the entry point fan enclosure erupted into a volley of name cries for attention, autographs and photos that provided instant atmosphere and excitement. A ripple effect kicks in as the word is passed down the line as to who is causing the commotion. This information is processed so that the media can be teed up to talk (‘Is she nominated?’ ‘No, she’s presenting.’).

Minders, personal publicists, PAs or the actual people themselves are asked to stop and give a little time to the viewers, listeners, readers. One last twirl, a final ‘I’m very happy to be here.’ And they move on to the next one. Those people in the background holding clipboards (an unavoidable necessity), scanning the faces in the crowd, checking their watches and having quiet words with people who will either say yes or no, that’s us.

There is a 20-minute window between 5.40pm and 6 o’clock when everyone arrives at once. Carpet onlookers are encouraged to keep moving, publicists are trying desperately to keep out of shot and, despite everyone’s best efforts, 10 of those 20 minutes are a bit of a pile-up. But everyone gets to talk to someone, everyone looks fab and everyone is more than happy to smile for the cameras. Interviews get a little shorter as the next target comes into the presenter’s peripheral vision. Everyone behaves in a consummately professional fashion as nods and shakes of the head signal the decision whether to interrupt the procession with a gentle ‘....would you mind talking to...’ and the excitement-building chatter continues apace. Then they’re gone and the main event can start.

The carpet was a vivid shade of red, but in those 10 or 15 minutes of mayhem you could not see an inch of it. As we took our seats and removed our lanyards, ate our complimentary chocolate, sat back and breathed deeply, it finally registered that the work part was over and a wonderful evening was about to unfold.

Clair Chamberlain

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