Philips Selecon and Showline LED luminaires recently performed a range of crucial lighting roles whilst complementing a traditional tungsten rig on macabre musical The Addams Family at the John McIntosh Arts Theatre in London.
The Wimbledon Light Operatic Society production was based on an original story by Jersey Boys authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, which has been described as an ‘off-beat take on 19th century gothic’.
“We’ve been involved with Wimbledon Light Operatic Society for over 15 years, predominantly with the lighting, but this time I designed the lighting with my wife, Helen co directing the show with Janet Huckle,” begins lighting designer Paul Flook, who was asked to differentiate between the living and dead characters using coloured light.
“The story involves ancestors of the Addams family making their annual visit from the grave but a family incident stops their return to the crypt. We needed to establish between the living and the dead on stage, but whilst visible to the family, the ancestors were invisible to others. The scenes and musical numbers flip between the outrageous and flamboyant through to intimate and subtly moody.”
Paul chose 10 Philips Selecon PLprofile1 luminaires, four PLcyc1 luminaires and eight Philips Showline SL WASH 180 movers to a basic rig, creating a versatile mix of traditional and LED fixtures.
“I wanted to be able to separate the ancestors from the rest of the ‘live’ cast as the action moved,” he explains. “With the SL WASH 180’s great optics I was able to track and focus wherever I needed with ease.”
Paul notes that the rig was a complete mix. “There was a traditional basic rig on FOH, No.1 and No.2 consisting of S4 JRs and 223s which allowed a generally lit single colour stage split into 12 areas from downstage up to the house/gauze point at mid upstage.
Augmented on this were six PL 1 on the Arch at 3m off the deck capable of providing harsh cross light.
Eight SL180 movers spread on No.1 and No.2 and two other PL 1 and four PARs for spot effects. The SL180 allowed me the flexibility of tracking and focusing to whatever and where ever was required.
“On No.3, which was behind the gauze point, there were four PL CYCs used as back light on the house stairs and two PL1 and Pat 123s (yes still in use!) for effects. There were four other S4 lanterns used for Gobo working from low positions in the auditorium. The desk was a Pallet 64 and one universe was full!”
As with all venues, The John Macintosh Arts Theatre has its own unique restrictions.
The wing space and fly bar count is restricted so major physical set changes were out, and lighting had to convey location changes as well as the theatrical brief.
“Follow spot locations are low so large beam shadows spread everywhere, even when iris’ are in and unless one has professional grade operators the use would detract more than enhance, so it was decided early on that we would do without them,” he reflects.
“The venue dimmer count is low so augmenting with 20 PL fixtures allowed me to have multiple equivalent lanterns outside of the basic rig. With the theatrical brief of splitting the living and the dead I wanted to be able to separate and colour-cast the ancestors from the rest of the ‘live’ cast as the action moved. I decided that we could use the SL movers to do both the intimate and the outrageous by tracking movements.”
As the play did not feature any major set transformations, Paul was also tasked with using lighting to convey change in location.
“With the SL WASH 180 fixtures I could split the visual picture during the course of the action. They allowed me to wash an area of the stage in traditional colours to evoke a particular setting whilst simultaneously highlighting the ‘ancestors’ in contrasting moody hues,” he explains.
The Philips luminaires were also applied to create looks that swung from the moody and intimate, to the bold and vibrant during some of the bigger musical numbers.
“The Philips Selecon PL1 range allowed me to switch from delicate to flamboyant in an instant with its colour pallet, which rivals traditional tungsten colourising across the majority of hues,” Paul states. “To apply a full rig of traditional lanterns in the same way as we used the Philips Selecon and Showline fixtures would have been power, weight and space hungry, so adding LED to the mix was the ideal solution.”
“On traditional scenes the 180s’ attributes allowed close splitting of the picture between enhancing an area in traditional colours, whilst providing moody and outrageous highlighting of the ancestors and tracking this picture as required across the stage.”
On musicals numbers the focus element of them allowed highlight tracking with ease, eliminating the follow operator problems.
“On two scenes where the gauze was in use, just two SL180s were used set to their widest focus (and if you have used them you know where that is) to cover the cloth!
The strobe capability was also used on more than one occasion for lightning effects. Tight focus and OW flashes did get over the rest of the stage lighting is one uses several lanterns together.”
Modern vs. traditional working
“The two systems complemented well,” says Paul. “As we know yellows are always difficult on LED systems and I had to give in and have two traditional units with 101s in, but all other colour (seen on the photographs) comes from the PL equipment. The ability to change focus and direction allowed the colour mixes seen. To do this with traditional lanterns would have been power, weight and space-hungry. Dimming curves are still a little interesting and can be annoying but lead lag of cues can resolve this.”
Paul has many favourite parts where the lighting was used with particularly dramatic effect, although a highlight of the director is the family dinner scene at the end of the first act. “With its ‘last Supper’ reference, the lighting cleverly kept boundaries between living and dead well and truly established,” says Janet.
“It maintained the suggestion throughout the show that the dead could only be seen by the living family members, whilst invisible to others.”
“For me personally it has to be Fester’s moonlight serenade,” adds co-director Helen. “The contrast of night time lighting with the ancestor’s deathly glow and the ‘living’ light on Fester. It just created a beautiful atmosphere for Fester to declare his love to the moon. Using a gobo over the moon added an extra depth to the scene and complimented the song beautifully.”
And Paul’s? “My favourite was a transition scene. The scene is all about the two young children asking their respective parents to behave normally at the dinner party. The song takes place in both the house and in the park outside. The script requires both families to ping pong between themselves, finally culminating with both children singing together. Early planning allowed best use of a tree gauze, set mid-stage. I was able to follow and pull/push the lighting accent between the groups culminating in a triangle of ‘normal’ parents and children in the park with the Adams’s up high on the stair case behind the gauze.”
View more David Croft photography here.
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