I was an actor at the Dome during 2000 and thoroughly enjoyed my year there!
I trained as an actor at about the age of forty and quickly found that work was hard to get. At some point I must have applied for a job at the Millennium Dome, though I don't remember doing so. I was surprised therefore to receive an invitation to audition for the Natural Theatre Co (based in Bath, England) for an upcoming job at the Dome. I was excited by the prospect and took care to prepare thoroughly, even writing my own audition monologue. I duly pitched up at the audition and found myself one of hundreds of prospective candidates - many from accredited drama schools (mine was an open-access class). I was still excited when I left - having poured everything into the audition - but knew that numerically my chances were still a long shot. A week or so later I almost jumped through roof with excitement when I got a phone call telling me I had been successful.
We had two weeks rehearsals in October of '99 during which we experimented with various improvised comedy scenarios. After this there was a long hiatus with no work until Jan 1st 2000 when the dome opened. My first professional paid experience as an actor - the opening day was quite a nerve-wracking gig though incredibly enjoyable as part of a team of eight actors (4 male, 4 female) performing live crazy pieces to the crowds entering the Skyscape Cinema to see the Blackadder movie. I quickly settled into the routine and can honestly say it was the best year of my life. Up until then I had done incredibly boring office jobs and hated my working day. The Dome was like being in paradise! As an actor I found it invaluable. I had time to get used to and experiment with large audiences and to try out new pieces and ways of working. There were twenty four of us in all - divided into three teams of eight. Each day two teams performed (am and pm) and one team had a day off. This meant we worked two days in three (regardless of weekends - no official holidays) so a working week of 4 and 1/3 days. We were paid £400 a week which was more than I'd ever earned before. Holidays were arranged by swapping days with several other actors.
Apart from the first day, audience levels soon dropped off and, for the first couple of months at least, the eight actors often outnumbered the audience - which could be a challenge in itself. Eventually though things picked up and became more energetic. It never stopped being fun however. I relaxed so much I was almost horizontal. At one point my team gave me a spoof award for being the 'most laid back actor'! During my time at the Dome I met my partner and we formed our own street theatre company 'Comic Character Creations'. We've now been going five years and employ several of our Dome colleagues on an ad hoc basis - so the work flow has continued.
The acts were crazy and fun to do. I would sometimes go out as a dodgy salesman (moustache, mac, hat and loud tie) and try to sell people 'Millennium Souvenir vegetables' my line being Get your Minnellium onions - onna stick! Not forty pound, not thirty pound, not even twenty pound - just ten pounds your Minnellium onion. The character was, of course, blatanty nicked from Terry Pratchet. Mostly people found it hilarious - but there was the odd one who thought me serious. Another act involved being an American cheerleader (I'm a thick-set hairy guy) and auditioning people for the same role (usually dads).
The night it all came to an end was very sad. Despite it being New Year we didn't feel like celebrating but all things pass and the Dome gave us something lasting in addition to the memories. We are still in contact with, and providing crazy jobs for, our excellent colleagues and friends.
Frank Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org)