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White Light Supplies Lighting for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

White Light Supplies Lighting for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
White Light Supplies Lighting for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Entertainment lighting specialist White Light was recently chosen to supply lighting for the new musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which opened earlier this year at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane to critical and public acclaim. Charlie joins a long legacy of White Light supported shows in the West End, which currently includes the hit productions of Billy Elliot, The Bodyguard, A Chorus Line, Matilda, Les Misérables and War Horse.

Directed by Sam Mendes – returning to theatre after directing Skyfall – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory features an A-list creative team including writers David Greig, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, choreographer Peter Darling, designer Mark Thompson, sound designer Paul Arditti, projection designer Jon Driscoll and lighting designer Paul Pyant, who has collaborated with Mendes regularly during and since his time at the helm of London’s Donmar Warehouse.

Pyant, working with associate lighting designer, David Howe, specified a very modern lighting rig, using moving lights and LED lighting fixtures rather than colour scrollers to provide all of the colour changing in the show.

“Working with White Light was fantastic, because the wide range of equipment they offer allowed us to pick particular products for specific purposes, while also allowing us to aim for the quietest rig possible, something all involved with the show were keen to achieve,” notes Paul Pyant. “For example, we knew that we wanted the early scenes to have a very traditional, tungsten-like feel, and the Martin TW1s provided that. But we also knew there would be moments in the show where we wanted really sharp bump changes of level or colour, and for that LEDs are unbeatable.”

“We’ve had great fun with Martin’s Mac Auras in particular,” David Howe adds. “These offer a great beam and a fantastic range of colours, but they’re also tiny, so we’ve been able to sneak them into under-box positions where you wouldn’t normally be able to fit a moving light - indeed, where you can only just fit a Source Four. They’ve worked really well from there, as re-focusable cross lights and roving specials.”

The lighting team also praised White Light for their responsiveness, flexibility and quality support. “When we call with a problem, there’s no hassle,” Howe notes, “just re-assurance that the problem will be solved. If there’s a sudden need for something to achieve a new effect it’s great to know that it’s only in Wimbledon and so will get to us quickly. When you’re working on a show of this scale, the demand is very high to get everything just right. Having that level of support from White Light is invaluable.”

The load-in for Charlie began three months before opening: “When there was still snow on the ground outside,” as senior production electrician Gerry Amies notes, with White Light staging equipment deliveries from the company’s London base to suit the fit-up schedule. Pyant’s rig includes Martin TW1s and Auras, Vari-Lite VL1000AS, 1000TS and 3500Q Spots, Robe LED Wash 1200, Clay Paky Alpha Wash 1200 and Alpha Wash Halo, Chroma-Q ColorForce 72 LED battens, Chauvet COLORdash Accent LED fixtures, Source Four LED Lustr+ spotlights as well a selection of more traditional fixtures: Source Fours in a range of beam angles, birdies, Minuette Fresnels plus Altman UV fixtures. Followspots are from Robert Juliat, with three Lancelot 4kW spots in the spot box and two Super Korrigans in side auditorium box positions. The entire rig plus smoke and effects, set practicals and video - over 20 DMX universes-worth in total, several universes distributed via City Theatrical SHoW DMX wireless systems - is controlled by an MA grandMA2 system, with the lighting programmed by Jim Beagley and the video by Emily Harding.

As well as Howe, Amies and Beagley, Paul Pyant’s lighting team also included assistant lighting designer Derek Anderson plus production electricians Martin Chisnall, Chris Dunford, Sam Floyd and James Leatherby, and Steve McAndrew and his team including Nathan White, Matthew Wright, Chris Gunnell and Mark Watts; the show’s production manager was Patrick Molony.

“It’s been a great pleasure working with Paul, David, Gerry and the whole Charlie team,” comments White Light’s hire and technical director, Dave Isherwood. “They’ve known what they wanted to achieve, and trusted us to help them deliver that. With its extensive use of LED fixtures and lack of scrollers, this is perhaps a turning point in the evolution of lighting rigs - a milestone as big as the first shows White Light supplied scrollers to back in the 1980s. We at White Light are delighted to be helping evolve the use of lighting technology in theatre once again.”

“It’s been a long time in the making, ” comments Paul Pyant, “but with hard work from everyone in the theatre, and great support from White Light, we got there. I’m very pleased with the result - I think we have a great show, and one that audiences seem to love.”

White Light also supplied the lighting and technical production for the spectacular opening night party, which took place at the Grand Connaught Rooms. The company’s events team, which specialises in bespoke event production, ensured the new show received a deliciously colourful welcome, which hit the spot with guests.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is currently running at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London’s West End.

30th July 2013

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