CHESTER, U.K. — Dating from the 13th century, the “Chester Mystery Plays” production involves hundreds of amateur actors, volumes of volunteer work and a great audience from different corners of the U.K. and from all over the world. Organized every five years outdoors, this year’s performances took place for the first time ever in the Chester Cathedral’s nave, where about 100 CHAUVET® Professional fixtures lit the set.
"In order to bring these 700-year-old Mystery Plays to life, I knew I had to deliver some spectacular effects,” said Lighting Designer Chris Ellis. “ I also knew we needed a large lighting rig to do justice to the large setting in the Nave of Chester's medieval cathedral. With only modest power supplies available, it was an ideal opportunity to try out a large LED rig to help keep the power consumption down. Chauvet lighting kindly obliged with a selection of some 100 luminaires.”
For a dramatic rainbow following “Noah’s Flood” scene, Ellis installed eight CHAUVET® Professional Legend™ 230SR Beam moving yoke fixtures above the stage, in the cathedral's Norman tower. “My favorite of the CHAUVET® Professional lights is the Legend™ 230SR Beam, which was light enough to be installed high up in the Tower Gallery without damaging the stone walkways,” Ellis said. “It was stunningly bright as a 2.5-degree beam, but could also produce a multi-beam look with little loss of light output and could even soften off enough to produce a stage wash when required. Just added a bit of haze and we had a show!”
During the “Resurrection” scene Ellis used CHAUVET® Professional Ovation™ F-165WW Fresnel fixtures to reveal the empty tomb with a blinding effect. “The 'blinding light' then becomes a full-stage picture for the Ascension while Jesus' transformation is shown on the AV screens, high above the stage,” he said.
To recreate a stained glass window effect Ellis selected CHAUVET® Professional Ovation™ E-190WW ellipsoidal-style lights. “These were quite a surprise with good brightness and pleasant color rendering with the usual full-range of lens sizes.”
CHAUVET® Professional Q-Wash™ 560Z-LED wash lights provided a strong facial accent lighting. “These were located 15 meters up in the Nave Triforium Galleries with a remarkable output for such a small unit over that throw and good color rendering. They also doubled for color toning effects,” Ellis said.
CHAUVET® Professional Q-Spot™ 560-LED moving yoke spot units were rigged alongside the Q-Wash™ 560Z-LED fixtures to give area accent lighting for creating 'moments' in the action, as well as for gobo washes.
“The smaller Q-Wash™ 436Z-LED zoom and Q-Spot™ 460-LED fixtures were my close range side light units, located under the Nave Archway arcade,” Ellis said. “Although these units had less facilities, they still provided all of my sidelight needs.”
To replace the regular scroller unit low sides, COLORado™ Zoom Tour units were used for full color washes and were complemented by the COLORado™ Zoom WW Tour ones where Ellis needed cool/warm tinting of an acting area. “The COLORado™ Batten 72 Tour was small enough for a pair to be hidden behind a balustrade to uplight the rear of the set and a single unit to provide with a 'hidden backlight' under the central bridge - all without upsetting my scene designer!”
For really strong accent moments Ellis used Legend™ 1200E Wash fixtures as uplights for the 'power moments' of Heaven/ Hell/Tempest that required a real 'blast of light' that could shoot 25 meters up into the Tower or light up the glorious roof decoration of the 100-meter Nave.
Mystery Plays were created all across Europe from the 13th century as a means of celebrating the stories of the Old and New Testaments for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Originally performed inside the churches, from the 14th century they were produced by Crafts Guilds and performed in the open streets and market places on pageant carts ("waggons"). Performed by local people, the scripts and performances changed each year to remain current and have popular appeal.
14 x COLORado™ Zoom Tour
12 x COLORado™ Zoom WW Tour
12 x Ovation™ F-165WW
12 x Ovation™ E-190WW
8 x Q-Wash™ 560Z-LED
8 x Q-Wash™ 436Z-LED
8 x Legend™ 230SR Beam
8 x Q-Spot™ 560-LED
8 x Q-Spot™ 460-LED
6 x Legend™ 1200E Wash
3 x COLORado™ Batten 72 Tour
2 x Legend™ 1200E Spot