When the historic Roundhouse Theatre reopens on June 5 in Camden, UK, 23 years after it first closed and following a £29.7m refurbishment, it will feature a large trussing grid from Summit Steel. Summit Steel has installed a large trussing mother grid in the roof for the physical entertainment show Fuerzabruta, which is the first show staged at the legendary performing arts venue since it reopened. The show contains a myriad of aerial stunts, lots of water, and animated audience interaction.
Project manager Jay Call and the Summit team worked closely with technical director Ale Garcia. Fuerzabruta was originally created and devised as a permanently installed show in one theatre, which was much larger then the Roundhouse, and this had to be taken into consideration and worked around during the setup.
The mother grid–measuring 22m at its longest point–is suspended on 19 static points and tensioned off to the external ring of roof beams running around the building. It’s constructed from four spines of 52cm JTE trussing and nine spreaders made from 30cm trussing that are used for the positioning of the set pieces, automation, and lighting equipment. Summit also suspended PA on separate points throughout the space including the re-suspension of the Roundhouse’s own PA, when it became clear that the original height of suspension would impede positioning of the mother grid. The only Roundhouse rigging points are ring beams attached to the roof, most of which only offer a one-ton SWL at 2.5m centres, with a maximum of 20 tons loading in the roof.
Lifting the grid into position was a major challenge. Most of it was constructed on the floor, and then lifted into position on hoists, and in the process it was towed around the building’s own iron structural supporting beams. It was then dreaded off at approximately nine meters and attached to steel wire ropes containing rigging screws to achieve an accurate height. The remainder of the trussing was added and the grid finished at height – it was the only way to get the precise fit that was needed.
Getting the correct height was also absolutely crucial for the safe operation of the aerial stunts, some of which involve large props, set pieces and equipment being moved about on beam trolleys throughout the performance.
Apart from the challenge of lifting the mother-grid into place, the crew had the challenge of getting the loading spread throughout the entire roof. The largest– and the heaviest–set piece is a Perspex water tank weighing 2.5 tons when fully loaded with water and people. This traverses the whole length of one of the trusses, transferring the load across several points as it does.
The Roundhouse has the advantage of a CABLEnet tensioned wire grid in the roof – installed by Slingco, and specified by architects John McAslan and Partners following the concept design by theatre consultant Andy Hayles of Charcoalblue. “It was a pleasure to work on it and in the roof space as a whole, access to the ring beams has been well thought out minimizing the time spent working and the risks involved,“ comments Call.
“It was excellent to be involved in the first show at the new Roundhouse, and specifically on a show like Fuerzabruta, which puts all our skills to the test,” concludes Call. “As well as being a historic landmark venue and a very creative environment, it is also a pleasure to work in. I hope this will be the first of many projects here for us.”