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Romeo and Juliet at the Satirikon Theatre, Moscow

Romeo and Juliet at the Satirikon Theatre, Moscow
Romeo and Juliet at the Satirikon Theatre, Moscow

Moscow's Satirikon Theatre opened its 2012–2013 season with a production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Konstantin Raikin. Raikin, the theatre’s artistic director, has not staged Shakespeare's timeless love story at the Satirikon since the mid-1990s, and the new production has been hailed by critics and theatregoers alike for its innovative, high-tech, and ultramodern approach. The impressive visual effects created by ETC Russia using Christie projection equipment meld seamlessly and naturally with the on-stage action.

As Ruslan Semenov, general director of ETC Russia, explains: "It took our team a month and a half to prepare the video content for the show. The work was done on stage under the direct supervision of Konstantin Raikin. Daily rehearsals with the theatre company enabled us to achieve unique synchronisation between the video elements and the actors' performances, as well as between the show as a whole and each individual scene."

To bring Konstantin Raikin’s ideas to life, the set design was somewhat minimalist: throughout the two acts of the nearly three-hour performance, a single structure occupies centre stage. Thanks to the power of video mapping, this structure completely transforms the on-stage space, creating the required atmosphere and ambience.

Four Christie Roadster S+20K three-chip DLP projectors (each with a light output of 20,000 ANSI lumens) were installed in the projection room at the side of the auditorium, in order to project images onto the structures on stage from a distance of 23 metres. A central component of the structure is a bicycle ramp, and for good reason; most of the actors in this production are Konstantin Raikin's students at the Moscow Art Theater School. They enter the stage on bicycles and scooters and perform a variety of stunts, first attacking the vertical surface of the ramp to launch into astonishing aerial turns that ultimately end with them shooting, bullet-like, off stage.

While the effect of this unique staging is to give the performance a carnival atmosphere at times, the romantic mood and foreboding of the tragic denouement keeps the audience on edge; the entire stage is first transformed into a huge target to amuse the guests at a ball, and then seems to be flooded with the blood of the murdered Romeo. In the final scene, the action moves to a grave in a mausoleum covered in delicate white funeral flower buds which, though not yet fully blossomed, wilt before the audience’s eyes. The visual effects are many and varied.

The total area covered by the four video projectors is more than 400 square metres, while the backdrops for the sets, rather than being on a single plane, are distributed across the full depth of the stage. ETC Russia's technical director, Andrey Efarov, notes an important point: "It's great that the Christie projectors have wide depth resolution as we didn’t have to refocus them when projecting onto scenery at different depths, and the projectors’ DLP matrices yielded vivid images even on black velvet stage portals."

The videos produced by ETC Russia's designers have a resolution of 5184 x 1048 pixels, delivered in an uncompressed MOV format. The output video is synchronised with the audio and the sound signal is fed from the theatre's sound console.

Andrey Efarov also noted, "This production is very emotional plot-wise, so it was important for us to provide the appropriate technical solution – extremely reliable and absolutely flawless technology. This is why we opted for our standard approach, using Christie projectors and our own OnlyView software. It was this combination that enabled us to bring the director's vision to life."

According to Andrey, one of the unique functions of Christie projectors is the ability to make economical use of their xenon lamps. The projector’s illumination power is reduced using the relevant function on the projector itself, rather than on the output system.

Marat Narimanov, Satirikon's Special Effects Director, notes that the theatre has already successfully used Christie projectors, namely three LCD projectors, in other productions. "The three-chip DLP projectors Christie Roadster S+20K are ideal for the broad range of applications required in theatrical productions: they are powerful, bright, and reliable”, he points out. "Of course, it is also very handy to be able to control the projectors remotely and configure them via Ethernet." Another important feature of this technology for theatrical use is the model’s remotely operated ‘curtain’ i.e., a motorised lens shutter.

Since its première in October 2012, this production of Romeo and Juliet has established itself in the theatre's repertoire. It was initially staged several times a month, each time to great acclaim. Ruslan Semenov adds, "We at ETC are always interested in working with theatres. We take great pride in our work with Konstantin Raikin and look forward to further, equally fabulous projects."

The team at ETC Russia is already in pre-production for another Satirikon show using the same equipment.

17th May 2013

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