Robe moving lights took center stage at the Sundial Theatre at Cirencester College in Gloucestershire England for a production of Homer’s Odyssey, with an innovative lighting and set design by Sundial’s technical manager, Andy Webb.The performance was the end of year production by the Sundial Youth Theatre, and featured a cast of 28 students attending various different courses at the college. It was directed by Adam Fotheringham.
Homer’s intense story of the Journey Of Odysseus saw the Sundial Theatre configured into a minimalist stage design. A floor level thrust came out from the center of the main stage with seats encircling it at 270 degrees, creating an extremely intimate performance area with the performers right in the audience.
The theatre’s permanent stage, a set of steps built onto the front, and the floor level thrust area were all painted in cream. The clearly defined shapes of these elements integrated with a minimal set of triangular screens onstage, and 10 ‘S’ shaped screens rigged in the ceiling, also all painted in matching cream. The idea was to use lighting as a dramatic vehicle to produce most of the scenic and locational settings, times of day, mood, ambience, and enhance the main narrative threads.
Webb was inspired by Durham Marenghi’s lighting design for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin (which used over 250 Robe fixtures), where a long ramp led to a circular performance area, moving lights were placed all around, and color was used to produce all the drama and excitement. He liked the look and feel of this shape and decided to do his own version of it, on a vastly smaller scale and with considerably less fixtures to play with.
He thought it would be a complete design challenge to bring this concept into a theatre space setting. He also wanted to do something unique, totally different and non-conventional within the Theatre, making the lighting do all the work and, effectively, becoming another actor onstage.
The first fixtures he positioned were six Robe Wash 250 XTs around the circle on the floor at the end of the thrust. These were used to kick in at a low angle. Two Robe MS Zoom XTs were placed on the floor either side of the central steps, and the other two Wash 250 XTs on stage either side of the large central triangular screen. The rest of the Robe luminaries: 6 ColorSpot 575ATs, four ColorSpot 575 Washes, were hung overhead.
With 12 mini stories within the main one, each needed an individual look and feel, which Webb was able to create entirely with lighting–using different colors, intensities, beam angles, and shapes, “The key to this design was to keep it completely symmetrical,” he explains, “I totally relied on the Robes, which was the concept from the start.”
Four of the 575 Spots were rigged on what would have been the front bar onstage, poking trough the gaps in the S-shape flats, and were used for much of the rear space illuminations. The other two ColorSpot 575 ATs were rigged right at the ‘front’ of the space, doing the same thing.
Above the floor circle in the ceiling were four ColorWash 575 ATs, one positioned at each ‘corner’ or the circle, highlighting the whole area and creating whirlpool and other effects.
Four of the 250 Wash XTs and the MS Zoom XTs are owned by Sundial, and Enlightened Lighting in Bath, England supplied the rest. It was the second time that Webb had used the 575 series and he comments on how quiet they are; essential in any theatre and particularly in a space like this, where the grid is low, and in this specific production, where everything is very close to the audience. The MS Zooms were primarily used as keylighting spotlights
He likes the colour temperature of the Wash 575 and finds it perfect for blending in with general FOH colour, and thinks the Spot 575 Spot has lots of functionality and unleashes great creative freedom.
In addition to the Robes for Odyssey, Webb also used an assortment of conventionals, all of which was controlled on a Zero 88 Leap Frog. The floor space was curtained off by a DMX LED starcloth on three sides.
Four followspots were located at each corner of the floor space, on towers, poking over the top of the starcloth, and used for Webb’s main key, fill, and back light. By using the followspots to highlight the man action, it allowed him to maintain the intense colour and effects of the Robes. He therefore needed a very minimal amount of FOH lighting.
Two Selecon Performers 1200MSRs were used on the side towers for side and back lighting as well as onstage pick ups. The rear towers featured Selecon 1200w 80v Pacific follow-spots, and were used to kick in a warmer FOH keylight. By adjusting levels and angles, these created many dramatic effects complementing the Robes and the overall look of the production.
Webb worked closely with production manager Gary Bowman on the show. Bowman is a former Cirencester College Technical Theatre student now studying at the Bristol Old Vic.