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Digital Scenery Solution for Helene Fourment Production
Belgium – Painting with Light’s Luc Peumans energised a creative team to deliver video content for a striking 3D digital set and lighting design for the highly acclaimed Judas TheaterProducties staging of “Helene Fourment,” a new musical centred around Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens’ young muse. The show played at the Fakkeltheater, Antwerp, proving a big hit with both critics and the public.
Luc had previously worked with director Martin Michel, and was delighted to collaborate with Judas TheaterProducties whose award-winning work is recognised for its innovation and original style. Painting with Light’s Michael Al Far created the video content and Jeroen Opsteyn was associate lighting designer and also programmed the lighting with Luc. All worked very closely with set designer Arno Bremers.
The production team had already decided they wanted digital scenery, so needed the expertise, imagination and right solution to realise the scenario. Painting with Light also provided the control hardware, investing in a new d3 4x2 media server system to map all the images to the set which was built by Antwerp-based C19. Luc also specified the Christie 18K Roadster projector which brought the blank canvass set to life.
Luc and Michael wanted to recreate the incredible detail that characterised Rubens’ painting in the video content, the show’s narrative unfolds the nuances of some of the works featuring Helene Fourment. “It was an incredibly exciting brief,” said Luc, “that went far beyond just presenting locations, we could hone in on elements like lighting and accentuate the way Rubens’ literally ‘painted with light’.”
The set, built by C19 from Antwerp, comprised three wooden pieces, a central back-wall with columns and rectangular frames all at different depths. Rendered in a grey rough-cast plaster finish, it was a completely blank canvas for the projected material, framed at the top by a low apex triangular roof panel. It also had some opening door sections allowing supporting actor Brent Pannier to pop his head through and interact with actress and singer Anne Mie Gils, who played Helene Fourment and was onstage through the entire performance. The set doors also gave glimpses through to the live orchestra playing behind.
Audiences walked into Fourment sitting on a chaise-lounge with her back to the crowd. The projection gave people a feel for what was about to happen, and then as the next video sequence glided into place, they become aware that what they were seeing was not actually static, but a morphing projection. This 'wow factor' worked brilliantly as a scene-setting theatrical effect.
The objective was to give an insight into the life of one of the greatest painters and a snapshot of his personal life. Staged in the intimate theatre space increased the feeling of closeness and of being special that engaged the audiences.
The narrative is set in Antwerp and flips between an art museum in Vienna and Fourment’s life during the mid-17th century. All the interior content had to be historically accurate to the period, so the Painting with Light team used reference images collected by Arno and Martin as their starting points, and from there created footage in Cinema 4D which was graded in PhotoShop and After Effects.
Central to the story is “Het Pelsken” which Rubens painted for Fourment who was also his second wife, they married in 1630 when she was just 16. The love story between the ageing painter and his young bride was unfolded through this and some other key master works, the originals of which the Painting with Light team had access to via Rubenshuis in Antwerp, a centre dedicated to the study of Rubens and the conservation of his legacy.
Most challenging for Painting with Light was creating the depth and perspective required in the content to bring the set properly and authentically to life. Apart from that, staging a multi-set musical in a compact 150 seater black box space also presented its issues, with the front row virtually on top of the staging space, and with very limited backstage, wing or side-stage room. All of this galvanised the team to be resourceful and inventive – a process that was rewarding and invigorating.
The d3 was programmed by Painting with Light’s Katleen Selleslagh.
To support the projection and the highly talented Anne Mie Gil’s incredible performance, Luc lit the action simply and effectively using only six Clay Paky Alpha profile 800 SRs, eight Robe LEDWash 300s and 14 ellipsoidals supplied by Phlippo Showlight and running on a grandMA2 onPC.
“Accentuating the perspective and lighting that Rubens introduced to his art was something I tried to do in a completely different context for this performance,” explained Luc. “The projection brought the stage to life, so it was crucial for any lighting to be a perfect complement and also work with the geometry of the set.”
The hard work and attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed in the reviews: The projection mapping and “ingenious projection artwork” raised the performance “to a higher level” taking the position of a third actor,” commented Nathalie Hellemens in BOA Magazine.
“Luc Peumans has done an amazingly good job …. The technique [projection] was entirely at the service of the performance and not vice versa,” wrote Sascha Siereveld in Concertnews.be.
photos: Luc Monsaert
11th March 2016
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