HSL – leading UK lighting and visuals rental specialist - supplied moving lights and LED screen for the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich’s recent production of the classic Cy Coleman musical, “Sweet Charity”.
Lighting designer Nick Richings and set / costume designer Libby Watson added plenty of colour, drama and atmosphere to the work, proving just how much can be achieved with a little bit of technology and copious amounts of imagination.
HSL’s project manager John Slevin commented, “The budget was expedient and the tech / rehearsal timeframe short, but everyone involved worked as a team utilising creativity and ingenuity to ensure a truly excellent production that was a big hit with audiences”.
Nick and Libby worked closely on developing the whole visual concept with director Pete Rowe, setting it in the 1960s underlined with a strong Pop Art aesthetic, together with all the boldness, stylized text / images and colouring that embodied the movement.
A main upstage 4 x 4 metre flown video wall was made up of Martin EC20 LED product and flanked by two smaller screen surfaces either side – measuring one and two metres square respectively - all essential digital elements of the set design.
The screens were filled with Pop Art style parodies, line drawings and iconic words from the era, some directly related to the narrative e.g. “Splash” for when Charity is pushed into the lake, as well as to provide locational information,
This Pop Art vibe and the primarily monochrome scenic set pieces were the starting point for Nick’s lighting scheme for which HSL provided ten Robe 600E Spots which he used extensively … on all the big production numbers and to highlight various other specific scenes.
“They were on the whole time, worked hard throughout the show and were vital to the look and feel of the lighting” he commented.
In “Big Spender” eight female saxophone players were down-lit with tight 600E Spot beams which brought a classy, sassy look to the stage parodying how light could be used as another genre of Pop Art expression.
All the brightness and colour moments were counterbalanced by monochrome looks, and this contract was developed as a vehicle to distinguish between indoor (colourful) and exterior (desaturated) locations.
Lighting - Nick also utilised a wide selection of generic fixtures from the substantial house lighting system - was programmed on the house ETC EOS console by Dave Gardener from the theatre’s LX crew.
Nick and Libby chose the EC20 screen after seeing a demo at Opera Holland Park and selected it from the three options offered by HSL. Libby chose to work with LED rather than projection because of the specific vibrant ‘pop-out’ look she wanted.
The screen content was all stored on a QLAB media server supplied by HSL.
The screens were filled with images and text throughout the show, primarily stills artwork with some animated sequences, all created by Libby. Much of it was hand drawn to avoid looking too computer generated and a lot of it was inspired by Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book style, which worked perfectly on the screens – dramatically as well as technically recalled Libby, who was delighted with the results.
Photos by Mike Kwasniak - courtesy of the New Wolsey Theatre