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It’s Specialz at the London Palladium

It’s Specialz at the London Palladium

UK - Specialz is a company that has built an enviable reputation on providing individual bespoke structures for productions, commonly with an integral lighting component built into it. Whatever the project, however untried and untested the initial idea might be, Specialz can transform that first sketch on the back of a soggy beermat to a working, viable and effective reality on a stage.

Written by Harry Hill and Steve Brown, the Syco Entertainment production of ‘I Can’t Sing’ was never going to be just another a run of the mill show. The musical parody of The X Factor demanded the kind of framework on stage never seen before in the West End, let alone the London Palladium. Although famed for its cavernous audience space, the Palladium is surprisingly cosy backstage with very little room for lots of props and stage accessories. Consequently, when charged with bringing to life a collection of dressing room ‘trucks’ that were pre-fabricated by Delstar, managing director Dave Smith knew this was going to be a challenging project.

“From the original premise of what the show demanded to what was actually on the stage at the opening show there were necessarily many tweaks and alterations to the design,” explains Smith. “Our brief was to design and fabricate the very varied types of lighting effects within the trucks that already been built. But producing a finished structure that fulfils the creative image, bridging that gap between imagination and reality is our raison d'être. We were fortunate enough to be working with a couple of the most respected names in the business, lighting designer Jon Clark and set designer Es Devlin who were able to bring clarity to their design ideas.”

Clark highlights the input that Specialz contributed: “The lighting and in particular, the PAR installation was a object of real pride for us; even switched off, the build quality and visual effect was a thing of beauty!”

The three ‘trucks’ were multifunctional mobile units, able to be both complete dressing room sets and then work as a lit backdrop to the show finale. The internal dressing rooms were fitted with every type of generic light fitting while the reverse was dressed in a matt black and embedded with a range of stage light fittings ranging from PAR 64s and PAR56s down through PAR 30s and MR16 (specially custom modified by Specialz) to Pygmy lights and all framed with a chrome bevelled edging. These provided a spectacular lighting rig in their own right that complemented the flown system above and FOH and helped provide that ‘over the top’ look at the end of the show.

Late on in the pre-production stage, some fairly radical redesign took place as Smith describes: “The decision was taken to make them battery operated when the units were downstage. This changed both the weight and some of the original design features. The PARs and the rest of the back wall would have been too much of a drain on the batteries so was plugged into the mains when that façade was in use. Technically, this created some challenges for us but when a production is attempting something new and untried, these sorts of redesigns are almost inevitable and simply part of the process.”

Although the show has not been able to complete its first run, that in no way detracts from the technical and production values that were able to bring this show to the stage. Production manager, Rich Blacksell expands: “This was a really challenging production from a technical perspective and it is a great shame that has not resulted in commercial success but that, as they say, is showbiz. As far as Specialz is concerned I cannot fault the company’s input. Not having worked with Dave before I was wary of such a visually critical and technically complex section of the show going his way, but his approach from the start was exemplary and incredibly reassuring. Dave’s foresight in terms of identifying issues and proffering (design led, but budget aware) solutions was a great help. There was a huge degree of flexibility in the way the project was dealt with and his calmness right up to the wire was critical on such a show. There was never a doubt about his ability to deliver, but I was blown away with the manner and precision with which he and his team did. I look forward to working with him again just as soon as the opportunity arises.”

30th May 2014

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