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Brilliant Stages delivers skatepark for One Direction Where We Are Stadium Tour
UK - One Direction recently kicked off their latest stadium tour, Where We Are, to celebrate their third album, Midnight Memories. Working with designers Ray Winkler and Ric Lipson of Stufish, Brilliant Stages delivered a series of staging elements designed around a central theme of a skatepark.
Stufish designed the 3-dimensional diamond-shaped ‘skate park’ with multiple performer levels that spread across the 54m wide x 21m deep main stage. The set incorporates pairs of ego- and band-risers, perimeter ramps and screamers arranged either side of a steep central slope, which rakes upstage at a 19° angle to a height of 4.5m, and is fronted by a 34m long skate thrust to the B-stage.
Brilliant Stages designed and built the decking and supporting framework for the walkways and risers, along with scarlet powder-coated aluminium access stairs and onstage treads, handrails and skate bumper rails, and plentiful substage storage and tech areas. Also incorporated into the design are LED strips that edge all audience-facing fascias and weatherproofed lighting positions for the Mac Aura moving lights that are inset onto the on-stage ramps. The whole is finished in a customised slip-resistant coating in striking colours of red, black and silver.
“When looking at the design of the stage I had to make sure that the supporting structure was kept to a minimum to keep the clean look of the set,” says Brilliant Stages’ CAD designer, Mel Welch. “As always we have to consider the working crew as well as the artist making sure there is as much storage and tech areas as possible to operate the show.”
The perimeter ramps, ego risers and screamers positioned stage left and right are fabricated from Brilliant Stages’ customised, heavy duty, aluminium deck frames, into which are slotted 18mm birch plywood facings. “The decking drops into the aluminium extrusion from the top and is hand-crafted for an exact fit,” explains production manager, Wob Roberts. “The aluminium frames are designed to fit flush with the decking so water cannot penetrate and swell the boards. This saves the crew significant maintenance time which might otherwise be spent changing water-damaged decks.”
The steep central ramp incorporates a hinge-down section for support band access; the symmetrically positioned band risers are fitted with overhead frameworks and plastic covers as weather protection for the keyboards and drumsets and conceal tech bunkers beneath; the down stage apron walkway, or ‘boomerang’, has been fitted with five hatches, or ‘toasters’, to facilitate the entrance of the band mid-show. All are constructed of the same Brilliant Stages frame and decking system and supported above the Stage Co substage by scaff insert legs.
The 4.2m wide skate thrust that leads to the B-stage sports a series of ramps and red powder-coated aluminium skate bumper bars. The bumper bars locate into Brilliant’s plywood decking and aluminium framework and can be set to two different heights, while a pair of specially-designed adjustable access treads lead to the thrust and can move so the whole system can be raised or lowered easily to suit the varying heights of each venue.
Revolution Display Blade LED battens trace the edges of the thrust and B-stage and are attached to the sides of the decks by aluminium brackets. Further LED strips are inlaid into silver dibond edging on the downstage deck and screamer fascias. These delineate the edges and accentuate the set’s complex aesthetic structure. “Devising a method to incorporate the LED strips into the set was the main challenge of the project,” says Welch.
The extreme gradient of the skateboard slopes, especially the central slope, combined with the potential wet weather conditions in the outdoor stadiums provided another challenge in need of a Brilliant solution. It was evident that something more heavy-duty than a standard non-slip finish to the decking was required. Brilliant Stages rapidly employed some creative thinking to develop a customised, extra-strength anti-slip coating which was then produced in the three signature colours of the set, each of which had carried its own level of slipperiness.
“Brilliant are very good at the little details that make our life easier on the road,” says head carpenter, Darren Davidson-Morris. “They have a solid understanding of how we have to work. For example, upstage laser platforms and fixings for the in-ear system transmitters have been built directly into the set, the trim edges on all the walkways clip together quickly, decking just slots into the aluminium framework from above for rapid assembly and quick change space and guitar and drum tech areas have been designed into the sub-stage space.”
Brilliant Stages also designs with an accuracy that extends beyond physical components to the method of construction: Welch created a series of hooked spacers that connect the Stage Co substage to the Brilliant Stages set and orientate the main stage alignment precisely on every load-in. “This means the crew can rely on building the rest of the show around the main stage’s position straight away,” says Davidson-Morris. “It’s a brilliantly simple way to save time for all the crews during construction and we can put the whole thing together in just twelve hours.”
An upstage performer lift – a late introduction to the set design - delivers the band’s initial entrance. Brilliant built the platform and hoist points that lift it from stage level to the entrance point 4m above ground level, and worked with Davidson-Morris and his team to create an adaptation of a standard 10ft set cart that would accommodate the large 12ft-wide structure. As with the stage framework, the lift is constructed from aluminium for lightness during transit.
Welch, who has worked with the show’s technical co-ordinator, Nick Evans, on several occasions, spent much time on site with the One Direction crew to understand their precise requirements. “We have known these guys a long time and have a great relationship with them,” he says. “We also appreciate the high level of coordination that exists between Brilliant Stages and Stufish. They are always very enjoyable to work with and I get great satisfaction from a job when everybody is happy with it.”
“I really like working with Brilliant Stages on stage set as they have never let me down,” says Roberts. “They are very hands-on and, being UK-based, are able to be on-hand for site visits, which is great for fine tuning. It also means we don't incur the expense of international freight costs.”
Davidson-Morris agrees: “The budget was a challenge on this show but Brilliant always provide what the designer wants and design to fit the budget with no loss of quality. Their set is simple but professional and fast to put together. This is the third show I have worked on with Brilliant Stages. They understand what we have to do on the road and have created a set I enjoy working with.”
The Where We Are Tour will travel through the UK, Ireland, Europe, USA, Canada and South America between April and October this year.
photos: Calvin Aurand
2nd July 2014
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