Zoe Phillips, 33, Senior assistant armourer at the Royal Opera House.
Photography ©Rob Greig
Why the hell does the Royal Opera House need a bloody armoury? Who are you planning to invade?
‘We need one because we supply all the ballets and operas with their weaponry and associated accoutrements. We’re really the only one of our kind in the country.’
So you make weapons for ballet dancers?
‘Yes, I make and maintain weaponry. That’s guns, knives, swords, retractable daggers: and I’m just working on a crossbow at the minute.’
Okay, so you’re making stabby shooty things, but I’m assuming they can’t be lethal?
‘Of course. We might have to sharpen a knife so that it’s sharp enough to cut an apple, but not sharp enough to cut somebody’s hand. And we do safety training for everything because we’re responsible for all the gunshots on stage too. We train the artists in how to use blank-firing guns safely.’
Anyone ever stab an opera singer by accident?
‘No! If a performer’s gun doesn’t go off we fire offstage to cover it. It’s a heart-in -your-mouth moment. The worst thing that happens is when we issue 60 chorus members with knives and we have to collect them all as they come off stage. There’s always someone who’s hidden one in his sock and then rushed off home, chucking it all in the laundry basket. So we rummage through dirty laundry quite a lot.’
Are you seriously telling me that no one has ‘accidentally’ stabbed a cast member before?
‘There isn’t a big history of it, though we have had a principal cut their hand instead of the fruit they were holding. They were so involved in what they were singing that they weren’t paying attention to the fact that what they were doing was quite silly.’
Do you ever get tired of weapons?
‘No, you just get tired! Everything I love to do, I have the platform to do it here. Except sleep.’
Hours 48hrs p/w
Starting salary £26,000 p/a
Qualifications Prop making course or similar work experience
Looking for a fist fight instead? Why not become a wrestler.
Interview by Eddy Frankel