This article was first published in February 2018
Sara Marshall-Page is the very last person singers on The Voice UK see before they go out on stage to audition.
She is the mysterious woman in the wings (on the left in the picture above), who as ITV’s assistant floor manager is there to give acts a reassuring pat on the back and ensure everyone going out into the spotlight is ready to perform for the coaches.
“The last moment before a potentially life changing performance is crucial,” says Sara. “The acts need to be focused, composed and ready to give the best performance they have ever given. As a team, we work to make sure that nerves don’t override these elements.
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“The singers have to walk out on to that stage ready and raring to go, with their nerves totally under control.”
With only three or four minutes with the singers before they walk into the spotlight, Sara says that she “gets them at their most nervous”.
“Most look like they want to run away, but they never do. I hold on to them too tightly!” she says. “Some go silent, others chatter away, but almost everyone tells me right at the very last second, just as the director tells me to standby to cue them on, that they need a wee and a glass of water. These are classic signs of the ‘last second super nerves’ kicking in.”
Sara continues, “I remember one act was so nervous, that just as I told her to walk on to stage she said, ‘Will you hug me?!'”
So what advice does she give the singers in those crucial few minutes?
“I almost always end up telling the singers to take nice deep, long breaths: ‘In for four, hold for four, then out for eight’,” explains Sara. “That always calms them down. I remind them that even though their mind has gone blank – they always tell me they can’t remember what their song is – everything will be amazing once the track starts. I also tell them to have fun just as they walk out.”
“Nerves are good though. I tell all of them that,” she continues. “It’s how you manage those nerves that matters.”
And it seems like the pressure has a rather intriguing side effect on the singers…
“I’ve had many secrets revealed to me in the wings,” smiles Sara. “But secrets told in the wings, stay in the wings!”
The Voice UK airs Saturdays on ITV