For our recent production of Passion for the Planet in Mole Valley, we were delighted to offer work placement opportunities to 2 young people: Pippa Banks, a student from The Ashcombe School; and John Allen, who’s studying at Reigate College. Here, they share their experiences of working on the production, and how it’s helped them build valuable skills for the future.

Pippa Banks

“I was offered a position as a trainee assistant director, and from the very first rehearsal everyone was so kind and welcoming. I instantly knew that I was in for an amazing experience!

Passion for the Planet was such a well-thought-out play. It was a hilarious show and genuinely entertaining for all the family. But throughout there were extremely important messages and take-away ideas: about the planet and climate change, of course, but also about taking time – to end the constant rush we’re in – and thinking about those in other countries.

“The company were extremely understanding about the days I came in feeling unwell, and the fact that I was doing schoolwork in the breaks. Everyone always wanted to make sure that I was happy and well rested; always treating each other, the volunteers and local singers with the same respect and kindness I was always furnished with.

“I gained so much from this experience, primarily about having the confidence to voice opinions and ideas as they will be listened to and respected. I learnt how important communication is within a show, particularly giving clear instructions when under pressure. And I learnt about the importance of taking breaks – and making sure everyone around you does as well! I would completely recommend Damn Cheek for work experience, particularly if you’re interested in theatre or acting. Even if you aren’t, you’ll still have an incredible time and will get a chance to learn a lot about how a functioning team of people works!

“There are many memories I will keep with me forever, and huge moments of pride and satisfaction too. I will always smile when I remember all the work I put into helping design and make a room for an installation, and the pride I felt when it was finished, and when I watched the audience’s reaction to it. Throughout my experience I created so many memories with all of the cast, crew and volunteers – such as hurried moments when we had to fix an audio cue or chaotic times when I learnt that just lying on the floor for a minute helps fix anything!

“Everyone in the Damn Cheek company is extremely professional, talented and, above all, some of the most kind, generous and fun people you will ever meet. I am eternally grateful for the experience they have given me. If Damn Cheek creates a show with your community, I would definitely say: get involved!”

John Allen

“This is the first time I’ve ever done work experience, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. To be honest, I felt slightly apprehensive when I arrived. I thought it would be less inclusive, even a bit intimidating. I mean, everyone here talks a lot! But everyone was so friendly and open and reassuring, that straightaway I realised I had nothing to worry about. I knew that it was going to be a fun week!

“Working together with the rest of team felt really comfortable from the start, and I pretty quickly formed some great relationships: both with the actors and all the people doing everything else behind the scenes. It was a brilliant working atmosphere, and I felt that I was given the opportunity to really express myself.

“My role was as trainee assistant stage manager. This meant that I helped with changing sets and setting up different scenes during the performance. In fact, I was given a whole host of responsibilities throughout the run, getting more and more involved as the week progressed.

“It really helped me to develop my skills, and learn a bunch of new stuff too. Being able to shadow Stephen, the stage manager, was so helpful, and I picked up loads of tips and insights. He definitely helped me get more organised, and I now have a much clearer understanding of what stage management involves during a theatre show.

“I had so many great moments, so it’s hard to choose a favourite. However, I really enjoyed my bit in ‘the reading room’, because that was sort of my scene. It was moments like this that I felt I really ‘owned’ – like opening the doors to take the desk down with Stephen, and helping put Karen’s cloak on.

“I think Damn Cheek did so much to include us as work experience. I felt like I was part of the team, and I really enjoyed it. I’d definitely recommend it to others, particularly younger people, as you’ll learn loads, work with great people, and have a fun time too!”

Find out more about our 2023 production of Passion for the Planet.