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Rita Ora: ‘Decidedly Different’

Rita Ora: ‘Decidedly Different’
Rita Ora: ‘Decidedly Different’

UK – “The great thing about doing this tour is that every tour she does is treated separately in its own right; new design, new set. Immediately after we do the last show of this arena run through the UK, an entirely new production will be assembled for her tour of the European festival circuit. Maybe that's not so unusual for festivals, but that's true of every tour she does.”

Production manager Joel Stanley may well draw attention to Rita Ora’s inclination to rejuvenate her performance at every turn, yet this refreshment had a certain urgency about it. “Just a couple of days before we went into production rehearsals I was working at Coachella; I literally flew in and went straight up to see Jerry Hough, my lead rigger to finalise the rigging plots for circulation to the venues.” Sharp intake of breath: “The design had only been signed of three weeks before the first date and with eight shows in just nine days every moment was critical.”

This was a 20 truck, full blown arena presentation and, just to add a little pressure, Stanley had to contend with a busy UK production industry. “Although I was able to assemble my usual heads of department for the tour, almost all my regular vendors were maxed out: no gear, no crews. ‘Bronski’ [Chris ‘Bronski’ Jablonski], Rita’s creative director, had conceived an absolutely beautiful design founded upon a recurring theme of chevron shaped video elements. While all the vendors I did secure, LCR, SSE, Flying by Foy, Pyro Junkies, All Access, really stepped up to the mark, I was fortunate that Video Design, my preferred video vendor for several years now, was able to supply this crucial element.”

Even then it was not plain sailing. “The back screen at thirty metres wide, is slightly folded downstage at centre, each end folded oppositely to present a flat-on IMAG surface. As a contiguous whole that part at least was relatively simple, if a little tight in some venues. Ironically though, it was the smallest part of the video that proved the most challenging.”

Bronski’s coup-de-theatre was to insert three motion controlled slender chevron towers of video with lighting elements contained within, over the main stage. These would animate the show visually and respond to Ora’s energetic and exquisitely choreographed performance.

“Alex Leinster at Video Design gave us the weights, just 900kg each, not a big deal and suspended on four Kinesys controlled hoists very manageable; until that is, we started moving them in rehearsals. They proved to be a very live load in terms of the way they responded to being moved, a response that was totally unpredictable in terms of weight shift between hoists. We took engineering advice immediately. We had just five days rehearsal and two of those for production tech’ so we were up against it, we just had to get on with it.”

The solution was to split the chevrons at the fold and fly each half independently: “Three chevrons treated as six individual surfaces were no great shakes in terms of the production, and Video Design responded immediately to the change in support structure and cable management. But of course, they now moved very differently, they were no longer a coherent whole. Between ourselves and Alex we came up with a loose, flexible linking device between each pair of halves to overcome that. The links were non-structural so in the event of adverse movement the links would break easily leaving the two halves separate but secure. More importantly, they looked fantastic, just as Bronski had intended.”

“One of Joel’s strengths is his unflappability,” commented Leinster later as the eight show run came to an end. “Frankly I think he gets bored if things are too simple.”

Stanley smiled before he responded. “We’ve really had no problem since we left Fly By Nite’s rehearsal facility. It took us a few shows to get into a routine, the last four and we were in our stride. That’s a credit to the industry as a whole, every vendor looked on this as if this were a much longer tour. With an eight show production there’s no time nor budget to consider things like slick packaging or fully custom set pieces, yet it still has to look and function to the same standard as an eight month tour. That was the standard everyone delivered; Video Design did so in spades.”

photos: Video Design

7th June 2019

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