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Miss Saigon Takes off on UK Tour with White Light
UK – Considered one of the greatest musicals of modern time, Miss Saigon tells the epic love story of young bar girl Kim who falls for American GI Chris during the fall of Saigon. Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed production of Boubil and Schonberg’s classic embarked on a record-breaking run in the West End and is now touring the UK. Having supplied the most recent revival, along with the original run thirty years ago, White Light has been called upon to provide the lighting equipment for this latest UK tour.
The lighting designer for the tour is Olivier Award-winning Bruno Poet who also lit the West End revival. He comments: “When Cameron asked me to light the 2014 production for the West End, it was daunting to start work on a production with so much history, yet thrilling to be asked to approach it with fresh ideas. I treated it as a completely new show. After the successful West End run, and revisiting the show for Broadway, the UK tour has been an opportunity to revisit my design and hone it for touring.
He adds: “It’s a challenging show to light – extremely fast-paced, with many changes of mood and location, from the smoky sleaze of Dreamland, to the bleakness of the refugee camp, to the military formality of The Morning of the Dragon, and the fantasy of the American Dream. At times it needs to be as epic as an opera, and at others as intimate as a play. A lot of my job would be as much directing the darkness as directing the light. Many moments of the show rely on hiding things with darkness and smoke.”
In terms of feel, the touring production still remains very similar to the West End. Bruno comments: “The main difference with the rig is that the touring version uses far less conventional fixtures and a few more moving lights. We’ve also replaced all of the scrollers with ETC Source Four Lustr 2 units which are great touring fixtures.”
For the tour, Bruno once again approached WL to provide him with the exact fixtures needed for this ambitious show. He states: “We have 36 Martin MAC Viper Performances on the rig which are fantastic for creating directional keylight and beams through the haze. Working closely with Vicky Fairall at Goboland, we created custom-made gobos which helped the lighting blend in with the set and projection. For instance, the set features scenic borders that have a bamboo criss-cross pattern. We created a gobo which reflected this so the shadows feel like a part of the set. Similarly, during American Dream, we use custom Dollar Bill artwork to match the projection and the themes of the song. They also make a great air look.”
Bruno also drew on 52 Martin MAC Auras. He states: “I packed the Auras close together so that they worked parallel with one another, creating almost light curtains. These offer big backlight looks and proved ideal for the big numbers. I also used the Auras at the side of the stage for sidelight, due to the fact they are so compact and can be hidden within the scenery.” Bruno also used the GLP X4 Battens for the other big number sequences, in particular American Dream.
Bruno’s lighting design worked alongside the award-winning set design by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley. He states: “At the back of the set is a skycloth made with layers of painted BP screen and gauze. I wanted to create many different looks in the sky so, to work with these layers, I chose EvenLED Panels. They can be pixel mapped with detailed video content and are therefore extremely flexible. We also had very limited space, only 300mm between the BP and the back of the theatre in some venues. It would never have been possible to light the cyc in a conventional way.” Chroma Q ColourForce 12 LED Battens are also used to skim across the gauzes.
Another significant fixture on the rig was the ETC Revolution. Bruno adds: “I still prefer the quality of tungsten light on faces. The Revolutions are used mainly in the warmer scenes and give a good contrast to the rest of the rig which is so LED and HMI heavy.” Bruno also utilised the Leader Light Stage Beam 6-06D Battens on the floor upstage during the This is the Hour sequence to backlight rows of soldiers. He explains: “Their super bright beam cuts well through the haze, and is so narrow that it can terminate on the circle fronts and avoid blinding the audience.” He also drew on Martin MAC Viper Washes and five followspots for punchier washlight effects, including three Robert Juliat Cyranos out front and Source 4 Lustr2s positioned on the side towers.
It’s not just lights that play a significant role in Bruno’s design. He adds: “This show has a lot of smoke machines in it. We have nine Look Solutions Unique Hazers positioned so that the haze can be pumped through lines of holes drilled through the floor There are four more Unique Hazers above the ground along with five Look Solution Viper 2.6 Smoke Machines. We also have two MDG ATMe haze generators that WL invested in specifically for this production. These create the best fine haze which allow beams of light to be seen without obscuring the action of stage. For low lying fog we have two Cryofogs and real dry ice is built into the Cadillac which is featured in the show.”
Miss Saigon is currently in Birmingham where it has achieved critical acclaim from critics and audience members alike. It will stay at the Hippodrome until 23rd September before visiting venues in Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester and finally concluding at Norwich Theatre Royal in August next year.
Bruno states: “This is a stunning show and it’s great to take it on a UK tour for the first time in over a decade. I’m extremely proud of my design and playing a part in telling this now iconic story. I have been brilliantly supported by my associate Warren Letton and programmer Dave Totaro as well as the dedicated touring electricians Jim Bristow, Stuart Moorhouse and Leoni Withers. I am also grateful to Jedd Hamilton and everyone at WL for their support throughout.”
photos: Johan Persson © Cameron Mackintosh Ltd
17th August 2017
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