Liz Dokukina: Capital Theatres Scenic Flying Technical Theatre Apprentice 

This Scottish Apprenticeship Week, we chat to scenic flying technical theatre apprentice, Liz Dokukina.  

Launched in October 2023, in partnership with Edinburgh College, this apprenticeship offers a unique training experience as Liz learns the art of ‘flying’ - the operation of a traditional theatrical rigging system, which lifts scenery to-and-from the stage.

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Liz Dokukina, the organisation’s first ever scenic flying technical theatre apprentice

How did you become interested in theatre? 

I’ve had an interest in theatre for a long time and was lucky enough to be involved in lots of drama and dance clubs when I was younger.

I initially thought I wanted to be an actor, but I decided to get a degree from the University of Edinburgh first. I’m glad I did because I got involved in a lot of student theatre. I found I preferred being off stage and having creative input on how the show looked, rather than performing. 

Why did you apply for the apprenticeship?  

I knew I wanted to pursue a career in theatre, but I was quite lost as to which area I wanted to focus on. I tried out stage management in the last 2 university productions I worked on and also co-production managed Jesus Christ Superstar with Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group, which was my first big technical job. I realised this was the element I really enjoyed.

John Robb (Technical Director) made it clear that part of the interview was for me to better understand what the job would entail and see if this was the right fit. Mark Pringle (Resident Head Flyman) and Stuart Haldane (Head of Stage) took me to the fly floor and I saw all these things and I got so excited by them. I think they could tell as I ended up getting the job!  

I really want to understand flying and get better at it. It’s an incredibly interesting and useful skillset to have.   

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Liz Dokukina

What does your role involve?   

I started off doing a few shows from stage level to understand how things run from there, but from that point on it’s been mostly focused on flying. I have a cue sheet with a list of things that I do during the show. I’m also involved during the fit ups and get outs, where I’m helping to bring certain bars in and out. I also do some general maintenance and cleaning.  

There’s been a lot of observing, learning and taking everything in, but recently I was able to take the lead on Carlos Acosta’s On Before. All the communication from the stage level was aimed at me and I called the show, with Mark supervising me. It was nerve-wracking, but such an exciting opportunity. 

How has the apprenticeship been so far?  

It’s been really fun – it’s a dream coming into work knowing that you’re going to have a good day. Of course, some days are more exciting than others, but no day is bad. It can be tiring physically but I’m constantly mentally challenged. 

At the start, people would use words that I didn’t understand and I was constantly taking notes. It took about 3 months until things started to make more sense and I’m starting to see how everything fits together. 

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Liz Dokukina and her mentor Mark Pringle

How has it been having a mentor? 

Learning from Mark is absolutely fantastic; he’s been at the Festival Theatre since it opened 30 years ago and has so much knowledge and experience. He so clearly understands his craft and it’s a privilege to learn from him. He always has the answer to a question and then will tell me 10 more things about it! 

What productions have you enjoyed working on so far?  

The first show I got to work on was Scottish Opera’s The Barber of Seville. It was a baptism of fire as it has such an intricate, interesting set and I really enjoyed it. And of course, leading on Carlos Acosta’s On Before was a big one for me because it felt so significant. 

Will you be working on Hamilton?  

Yes! There isn’t masses of flying in the show, but there is always something to do and I’m really looking forward to it. 

Will you get a chance to gain experience at other theatres?  

I’ll be going to the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff, working with Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands. It’ll be really interesting as they have a very wide theatre and their fly floor operates very differently to ours; there is a lot more space between the fly floor and the bars. It’s coming to us in May, so I’m really curious to see the differences

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Liz Dokukina

What is the best thing about your job?  

It’s hard to narrow down! Coming in and genuinely enjoying every day, no matter what I am doing. Having a direct impact on how a show looks. Being able to work in a theatre, in an atmosphere charged with creativity and performance and being part of something much greater than myself. I think that feeling is the best part of the job and I really feel fulfilled and satisfied.  

What do you like about working at Capital Theatres?  

Everyone is so supportive and welcoming and was very excited that I joined as an apprentice. They’ve created a brilliant learning environment and I’m in very safe hands! It’s also really important that this is a paid apprenticeship, and that Capital Theatres is a Living Wage Employer. This is my only job and it means that I can sustain myself. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in this apprenticeship?  

I would really encourage people to apply, especially if you’re interested in trying something entirely new. It’s great that you don’t need any technical qualifications and that you can learn hands-on.   

It’s not all about experience – I think my passion and love for theatre massively helped me in getting the apprenticeship. Don’t worry if you feel you don’t know enough, as that’s what apprenticeships are about: taking someone with a passion for something and turning them into someone who is knowledgeable in that area. 

So if it’s something you want to pursue, go for it!