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White Light Goes Beyond the Fence with Computer-Generated Musical
UK – Beyond the Fence is a landmark piece of theatre, being the first musical ever to be conceived and crafted entirely by computer. The show has been modelled on a study of the most successful hit musicals and features a talented cast performing alongside computer-generated material. It is currently running at the Arts Theatre in London’s West End until 5th March. As the leading lighting supplier to the West End, WL was the natural choice to provide the equipment for this state-of-the-art production.
Set in 1982, Beyond the Fence tells the story of Mary and her daughter George who are part of a group of women camped at Greenham Common, committed to stopping the arrival of US cruise missiles at the nearby airbase. However, when the pair are threatened with separation, Mary finds an unlikely alliance in US Airman Jim Meadow. She must then choose between doing what is best for her daughter and staying true to her ideals…
The lighting designer for the show was Howard Hudson. He comments: “The show is set mainly inside a camp, with brief moments of characters going ‘beyond the fence’ as it were. The distinction between the two sides of the fence was the main driving force of the design, particularly as the set had a revolving fence structure. The show also ranges from your standard musical ballads to big production numbers so the lighting had to cater for a variety of set pieces.”
To achieve his ideal design, Howard drew on Martin MAC Viper Performances, Martin MAC Viper Wash DXs, Martin MAC Auras, Vari*Lite VL1000s and ETC Source Four Lustr 2s, with the show being programmed on an ETC EOS Console.
Howard states: “One of the biggest challenges for this production was fitting a show as ambitious as this into a space as intimate as the Arts. The rig had to be flexible with both front of house and overhead positions and most of the fixtures were chosen with this in mind. For instance, we needed a flexible, low frontal cross light and the only fixture that offered the flexibility and met the weight restrictions was the Martin MAC Aura. It was a case of choosing the best equipment for the show yet also ensuring that it was suited for the Arts Theatre space. Fortunately WL had an extensive lighting inventory that I was able to draw on.”
Chris Mence, the show’s production electrician, comments: “Putting a show of this size, with its large and varied equipment, into the Arts Theatre was somewhat challenging. Practically, there is very little load in space and, as the building has several public spaces, we had to ensure that we weren’t restricting access to these. Thankfully, we were able to work closely with WL to ensure that we had a streamlined fit up and get in process, causing minimal disruption.”
Beyond the Fence closes this Saturday and has proven to be revolutionary in terms of how theatre can be created. Howard comments: “This was an extremely ambitious show, particularly when you consider the immense production and the space in which it had to be created. That said, we managed to achieve exactly what we wanted, with WL making a significant contribution to this.”
Chris adds: “A show like this has never been staged before so we had to rely heavily on the support of others to make it a reality. WL were extremely supportive throughout. They really went the extra mile and helped make the entire process a smooth and happy one.”
photos: Robert Workman
4th March 2016
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