There’s been a stage door keeper on duty at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal every day since 25 September 1865, providing a warm, friendly welcome to the venue’s staff, members of the public, visiting companies, orchestras, and celebrities alike. Over 150 years since the role first originated, we catch up with the incumbent, Steve Harvey, to learn more about the comings and goings of one of the UK's most successful touring venues…
I arrived outside the Theatre Royal at ten o’clock on a pleasant Wednesday morning, heading straight for the stage door, which is located next to the Royal Centre tram stop on Goldsmith Street. Steve Harvey was the first face I saw as he buzzed the door open for me, an experience which is now shared between myself and pretty much every other person who has entered the Theatre Royal through this door for the past two decades.
Prior to my arrival, American singer-songwriter Ryan Adams had already popped into the building for a fit-up ahead of his show at the Royal Concert Hall in the evening, and the cast of Frozen: The Musical were en route for their matinee performance in the theatre that afternoon. With the stage door acting as the hub of the complex, Steve opens up the venue in the morning when the theatre’s staff begin to arrive for work before meeting and greeting the cast and crew members who are performing that day.
Before landing the role of stage door keeper, Steve worked in various hotels in Nottingham, including the Royal Hotel (now known as the Crowne Plaza), which is situated just across the road from his current spot. A friend of his who worked in the box office of the theatre at the time informed him that the job was available. “I was collared as I was walking past. I came in for an interview and I got the job. Here we are twenty years later!”
During this time, Steve has encountered people from all walks of life, from theatre staff and members of the public to visiting companies, roadies, celebrities, and orchestras. “The people I meet are always lovely,” he says. “We've had names like One Direction, Olly Murs, Little Mix… a lot of [pop acts] come here when they first start out, before they go on to perform at the [Motorpoint] Arena. Sometimes, if they’re still together later, they come back down to our venue.”
When celebrities walk through the door, they're all just people coming in to do a job, however famous they are. They're usually a little bit more shy and timid in this area than when they’re performing on stage
He admits that one celebrity who made him feel a bit starstruck was American actress and singer Liza Minnelli, who walked through the stage door when she performed at the Royal Concert Hall in 2008. But he makes sure to remind himself that “when celebrities walk through the door, they're all just people coming in to do a job, however famous they are. They're usually a little bit more shy and timid in this area than when they’re performing on stage.”
He may be too kind-hearted to say anything mean-spirited about anyone in particular, but he admits that some celebrities are not the way you’d expect them to be when you see them on TV. “I’m not naming any names! But I never, ever judge anybody, because sometimes you hear rumours about people beforehand and then they turn out to be absolutely lovely. Then, sometimes, people come in here and you think, ‘Oh, okay.’ Some people just aren’t in the best mood early in the morning!”
Someone who failed to disappoint Steve was Grammy Award-winning singer Seal, who provided him with a stand-out moment that he will never forget. “He’d just finished his concert and he was waiting for his lift to pick him up. One of my colleagues told him she really loved one of his songs – I can't remember which one it was now, but it was quite slow and emotional. He literally stood there and sang the whole song to us – we were tearing up by the end. What a beautiful voice! You can't make that up, can you?”
I like to come into work wondering, ‘What's going to happen today?’ Every day is completely different and that's what keeps the job alive for me
Panto season is a regular highlight of the year for Steve, because “the cast are here for a lot longer and everyone gets to know each other a little bit better, so you sort of become a little family.” But it’s the unpredictable and ever-changing nature of the job that keeps his spark of passion alight. “No two days are the same,” he says. “I like to come into work wondering, ‘What's going to happen today?’ Every day is completely different and that's what keeps the job alive for me.”
Another duty that Steve is responsible for within his role as stage door keeper is managing the venue’s overflowing lost property cupboard, which appears to be where all of Nottingham’s missing scarves, umbrellas, and water bottles are hiding away. “We’ve even found some hearing aids and false teeth before!” Steve says with a laugh. “I always like it when we can track them down and get them back to their owners.”
This degree of care captures what makes Steve so good at his role: he is a people person, oozing with positivity around anyone he meets at the stage door. “I’d like to think that everybody that comes through the door always gets a nice, friendly meet and greet. Quite often, I’m the one welcoming them to the city, because a lot of them probably haven’t been here before if they're part of a touring show,” he says. “I like everybody to come into the theatre and be happy.”
We have a favour to ask
LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?