Putting LED into the Magic Lamp

Lighting designer Andy Webb seized a recent pantomime production of Aladdin staged at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool as the opportunity to design an all-LED moving and specials lighting rig which was all Robe.

Andy had been working on an LED lighting concept for the last two pantomime seasons with an increasing percentage of the rig becoming LED, and this year he felt the time was right to make a complete switch to LED moving lights and specials.

“Robe currently has an excellent selection of LED products which are suitable for any theatre or performance show,” he commented, after making Robe’s DL4 series, LEDWash 600s and Spikie moving lights plus their PARFect 100s central to this design.

The demands of panto are quite specific. Lighting has to be colourful and psychedelic to mimic the outlandish fantasy sequences at the core of the genre, and everything has to be mega-fast to keep pace with the onstage action, snappy dialogue, not to mention the endless one-liners and constant innuendo.

Given all that, Andy also decided to take an aesthetic departure this year in making the show darker, edgier and altogether more sinister. “I wanted to really ramp up the contrasts between the evil environments like Abanazer’s Cave and the bubble-gum pop-tastic full cast scenes,” he explained.

Eight out of the 10 Robe DL4S Profiles were rigged on LX bars 1 and 2, with the other two on the FOH balcony position for front gobo coverage and texturing the numerous cloth drops, a job at which they excelled in the Grand, which was designed by legendary theatre architect Frank Matcham and opened in 1894.

The FOH DL4S Profiles were also used for specials and pick-ups, where their very precise shuttering allowed for extremely small and detailed work. They were complimented by a DL4F Fresnel wash on LX bar 4 which proved ideal for creating a central back wash across the stage. “They have a very nice colour fade and dim out and blend well with the DL4S Profiles,” commented Andy. Then, eight LEDWash 600s were placed on LX1, 2, and 3 for general stage top light and for highlighting the set and cloths.

The 24 x PARFect 100s were on two sets of side booms stage left and right - fitted with 20 degree diffusion filters - with another three a side on two advanced boom positions in front of the proscenium for cutting across the apron. A pair of LEDWash 300 on the front boom position provided some basic wash augmentation. The 14 x Spikies were divided into a batch of 7 on LX 4, one in the centre and the other six out evenly along the bar which was flown in and out at various times.

The rest of the Spikies were all in FOH positions including the Royal Boxes and right at the top of the FOH booms, so together with those on LX 4, the whole auditorium could be filled with the moonflower effect creating stunning impact. Andy placed four CycFX 8 moving LED battens across the front of the stage in the footlights position for up-lighting faces and also for highlighting the further upstage cloths when the FOH angles restricted the reach of some front fixtures.

The LED lighting equipment was supplied by CEG Rent from Cambridge with additional support from Robe UK.