Opened in 1997, Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan Playhouse in London where many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed.
Shakespeare’s Globe is dedicated to experimentation, with its mission to ground itself in research and exploration, pushing the boundaries of its artistic endeavors, principally in relation to Shakespeare’s works.
For the first time, the venue has installed a state-of-the-art theatrical lighting rig for the summer season — with GLP’s multiple award-winning impression X4 Bars playing a crucial role. Previously, performances have used only natural daylight, similar to the original productions, during daytime shows, and a wash of tungsten floodlighting in the evenings.
Designed by Malcolm Rippeth, who has also masterminded the lighting for two of the shows in the opening season, the new inventory has been supplied by White Light, and installed as part of Emma Rice’s first season as Artistic Director.
The design brief was to create the most flexible and cutting edge system possible while minimizing the rig’s visual intrusion, and providing the various lighting designers with the widest range of options possible.
And this is where GLP’s versatile fixture excelled. “The trickiest part of the rig was finding a good overhead backlight, as these units are most prominently in the audience's sightlines,” Malcolm Rippeth explains. “The position demanded a very narrow discreet strip fixture but something far more versatile than the LED battens we now see everywhere, while individual moving heads or even generics would have been too obvious visually.
“The X4 Bars give full control of zoom and tilt, plus pixel-mapping and excellent RGBW color mixing. I couldn't find anything comparable — and when they're turned off they almost vanish.”
After discovering (and then demoing) the GLP solution, he specified 12 of the X4 Bar 20s — five downstage and seven upstage. They made their debut on A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Emma Rice, with lighting design by Victoria Brennan and Malcolm himself.
Reviewing the flexibility of the X4 Bars on this production, he states, “The upstage pipe was able to deliver everything from a full stage backlight to a light curtain to much more specific backlight areas via pixel-mapping, while the downstage pipe takes the backlight all the way to the edge. It also gives us options as a downlight, a front light to upstage and balconies — and has also been used as an architectural skim to the ceiling.”
After designing the lighting rig Malcolm Rippeth invited all the other LDs who would use the rig to continue the development — and they delivered nothing but positive feedback. Meanwhile, the Globe's Head of Production, Paul Russell, worked out the infrastructure in terms of cabling and rigging positions, and The Globe’s Lighting Supervisor, Ben Nichols, has been responsible for day-to-day operations and maintenance.
All rigging positions were bespoke, including moving light positions while the theatrical electrical installation was undertaken by Northern Light.
“The Globe is a space for experimentation and this too is an experiment,” proclaims Rippeth. And the X4 Bars, which recently picked up the Best Lighting Product award at the ABTT Show, have certainly proved the experiment justified. “All the season LDs have been very impressed with them,” he summarizes. “Visually discreet and incredibly versatile, they are the only fixture I found worthy of this specific task, and they've proved themselves in the hands of these LDs, and have been utterly reliable.
“The willingness of White Light to add them to their hire stock for us made it possible, and I have no hesitation in recommending them.”
At the end of the summer season most of the rig will come down — and the residual lighting rig will be no more visible than it was previously. “We will continue in that spirit and look forward to making the install even more sympathetic, discreet and flexible next year,” promises the designer.
Pictures courtesy of Mark Brenner (Taming of the Shrew) and Steve Tanner (The Globe Dream)