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Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in Singapore takes delivery of multiple GDS SM Consoles

Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in Singapore takes delivery of multiple GDS SM Consoles
Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in Singapore takes delivery of multiple GDS SM Consoles

Singapore - Housed in its distinctive twin shells, Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in Singapore, is without question one of the world's foremost arts centres. Just as its Opera House identifies Sydney to the outside world, so the unmistakable structure of the Esplanade places Singapore in the same league of globally renowned venues for the arts. Since opening in 2002 more than 18.5 million patrons have enjoyed more than 25,000 shows in state-of-the-art surroundings which rank amongst the finest in the world. A concert hall which seats 1600 people and whose acoustic properties rank alongside the best anywhere, is complemented by a 2000 seater theatre adapted from the horseshoe design of traditional European opera houses. Three further smaller spaces - a recital studio, theatre studio and rehearsal studio complete the picture of this exceptional facility. When it was first conceived and the initial designs of the Esplanade were made public, the project met with some hostility and attracted a degree of scepticism. In marked contrast to those early misgivings, Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay is now a loved and admired symbol of Singapore, which regularly showcases some of the greatest talent on the planet.

The technical complexities of regularly staging high-end, high-class international productions, as well as a host of smaller, intimate shows across five distinctly different spaces, are obviously demanding in the extreme. From opera to ballet; from full orchestral concerts to plays and recitals of all kinds, the stage-management requirements at the Esplanade are many, varied and pressurised in the extreme. Some years after its opening, the Esplanade's head of sound, Robin Shuttleworth began to explore ways to improve this aspect of working-life across the venue. A seed was sown during a meeting with GDS at PLASA in 2008 which confirmed Robin's growing feeling that the entire stage-management system throughout the Esplanade should be replaced. Further contacts ensued and by 2012 that course of action had been agreed and through renowned system's integrator E and E, GDS was commissioned to supply five of its groundbreaking, bespoke Stage Manager's Consoles to this Singapore icon.

The five GDS Stage Manager's consoles were supplied to the Esplanade to meet the requirements of the spaces previously described. GDS was faced with its greatest challenge in eight years of supplying Stage Manager's Consoles across the globe. The beauty of the GDS SM Console lies in its bespoke nature. Researched and developed with input from stage management professionals at every stage, the console was designed to be flexible and adaptable enough to respond to the precise requirements of any given performance space, providing its operator with the exact options she or he requires for the spectrum of productions to be managed. Each console is then constructed to meet those specific needs. The Esplanade, as an a hub of prestigious international productions, presented the most demanding specifications GDS had ever encountered in respect of the two SM consoles that were supplied for the concert hall and theatre respectively. These two consoles were the largest and most sophisticated GDS have produced to date.

As well as an array of features chosen from the SM Console's extensive range of existing options, a number of 'firsts' were built in, including height-adjustable bases and 32" HD-SDI display screens. Temperature and humidity displays to relay information from external sensors were also specified and constituted another groundbreaker in GDS SM Console development. The console required for the Recital Studio did not require the height adjustability or 32" screen, although retained the temperature and humidity displays alongside its carefully tailored features. Two further portable SM Consoles for the theatre studio and rehearsal studio were commissioned to deliver only the necessary essentials for efficient use in such environments, without any extraneous additions. Contrasting the sophisticated specification of the large consoles with the more straightforward requirements of the portable ones is informative. GDS' mission in developing the SM Console was based around giving stage managers what they wanted, rather than adopting a 'one size fits all' approach. Its presence in different forms at the Esplanade eloquently underlines the reasons why GDS' innovative SM Console is increasingly finding its way into the most select venues in the world.

Matt Lloyd, managing director of GDS observed that: “The five Stage Manager's Consoles at the Esplanade are something of a representation of how GDS works. In a way they sum up much that defines us as a company. In developing our products the watchwords are creativity and innovation, alongside a lot of hard work and discussions with customers and consultants. We never stand still. Whatever the project, we like to think that we can always find a way to adapt, to develop and improve. The big consoles for the Esplanade involved a two-year process from the initial contact to the finished articles but the results, as I'm sure our partners in the project will testify, are fantastic. We went out to Singapore to work closely on site to completely understand the brief and then, when the builds were nearing completion, both Gary from E and E, Emanuel and Robin came over to us to work on any last-minute requirements. Working with E and E was a pleasure and showed us exactly why they've got a proud sixty-year history in South Asia. This year GDS is ten years's to the next fifty!"

Robin Shuttleworth, head of sound at the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay offered his summary:

"Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, in order to cater for the wide-ranging demands of modern-day performances needed stage manager's desks that were user friendly and yet technically comprehensive -a theatrical technician's multi-tool, if you will. We provided GDS with a list of technical requirements and preliminary design layouts as well as specifying a maximum height and dimensional footprint. With GDS' expertise, their flexibility and innovative approach we succeeded in our aims. The desks are packed to the brim with technical capabilities and have great aesthetics which do not compromise their functionality. GDS' commitment in helping us achieve our objectives was fantastic - design and technical tweaks and amendments were perfected right up until the last minute before production. Although Esplanade is in Singapore and GDS is based in the UK, the physical distance between the two was of no consequence. With the help of facilitators Electronics and Engineering, the project was an unqualified success."

In picture: Gary Goh MD E&E, Immanuel Poh, Robin Shuttleworth and Simon Ng of the Esplanade.

15th September 2014

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