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Big is best with Unusual Rigging

Big is best with Unusual Rigging
Big is best with Unusual Rigging

UK – Big the Musical closed at the Dominion Theatre in London's West End on the 2nd November following a successful nine week run. The Theatre Royal Plymouth production opened in 2016 to rave reviews and played at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin into 2017. Finally after more than two years, it made its west end debut in September with production manager Hugh Borthwick bringing Unusual Rigging on board to handle the rigging elements of this ambitious production.

Hugh explained: "I brought Unusual Rigging on to this project right at the very start as I wanted them to be part of the design process for the production and not just to supply a rigging system. I've worked with Unusual for many years and know that their skill and ability to make the seemingly impossible happen is second to none. I've worked with Alan Jacobi and Simon Stone many times, and on Big the Musical, Mark Davies, Phil Tickle, Martin Mattingley and Emily Egleton formed the main team, all of whom were just outstanding."

Unusual is no stranger to working at the Dominion Theatre, having put in a new flying system and grid back in 2015 and having recently completed a new stage floor just before Big went in. "All of this knowledge certainly worked in our favour," said Hugh."Knowing the venue system inside out, the Unusual team were fully aware of the rigging requirements for the whole production as well as specific elements such as the downstage Skyline header piece. This was a scenic header element at the front of the set designed by Simon Higlett. In order to secure the hung scenic elements with a fuller load weight such as the header, Unusual took into consideration the stability, strength and centre and to ensure and sustain the clean action within the header which was housing a manual curved track to track on and off stage designed masking sliders. Unusual in turn designed and supplied a rock solid truss system to facilitate and hang the header which also resolved any conflicting forces."

As well as the truss for the scenic elements, Unusual created storage pallets in the wings to take the scenery above head height. One of the key elements of the set is a giant video wall weighing five to six tonnes which revolves in the middle of the floor. For this, Unusual supplied the right motor box and lifting material to enable the structure to be built within the time frame.

Hugh continued: "Having Unusual on board from the word 'go' meant that we nipped any potential issues in the bud, but even so the job has not been without its challenges. The biggest one, as is often the case, was time. But when you work with a team who can think on their feet, are adaptable, even at the 11th hour and have a level of expertise and skill that is you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere, you know that even the most tricky aspect of the production or venue its performed in can be remedied. My relationship with Unusual Rigging is based on trust and respect. As a production manager I always pull together the best teams and Unusual really are a superb part of that A-team."

photos: Alistair Muir

8th November 2019

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