Live Design Blog Archive

Projection Mapping goes theatrical in Northern Ballet's Cleopatra Tour

Projection designs by Nina Dunn of creative agency Knifedge are to take centre stage when Northern Ballet's acclaimed production of Cleopatra goes on tour to Nottingham, Woking and Norwich this Autumn.

Since its premiere earlier this year, Northern Ballet's new ballet has received much acclaim for its bold, modern interpretation of the life of the legendary woman and her passionate love affairs with Marc Antony and Julius Caesar. Northern Ballet's production is choreographed by Artistic Director David Nixon OBE and features a new original score by Claude-Michel Schonberg, composer of Les Miserables and Miss Saigon.

Whereas projection mapping is more conventionally used to wow a one-off audience with a single playback stunt seen from a single perspective, for Cleopatra Dunn has developed the technique to integrate with the live performance and change on cue and in tune with the piece.

The projection designs for Cleopatra play both scenic and emotional roles in the new production – adding atmosphere, depth and context to the simple set design, whilst still allowing the dancers maximum space to perform. It is the first time Northern Ballet has used projections in one of its productions, and projection designer Dunn has worked closely with her programmer, Sam Hunt, and lighting designer Tim Mitchell to achieve the desired effects.

“The key with projection mapping in a theatrical context is not only to be able to entirely transform the architectural space as required but more importantly to try and help the audience connect more emotionally with the production,” says Knifedge's Dunn. “And mapping is not about clever technology: first and foremost it is about the fundamental design concept then the knowledge of how to exploit the technology follows, supporting the design.. “Video isn't right for every production by any means. But when used sensitively in a way that blends seamlessly with costume, set and lighting, the effects can be highly evocative.”

An added challenge for Dunn has been to design a projection set up which is tourable and scalable to different sized venues and to keep the touring budget as low as possible. To achieve this, she has made her simple rig work hard. With only two 20,000 Lumen Barco projectors fitted with the widest angle lens available, she has been able to gain almost complete coverage of the set from onstage positions. But with over 20 mixes to focus, it is no mean feat to re-map the projections in each venue.

Cleopatra will be visiting the Nottingham Theatre Royal on 27th September – 1st October, Woking New Victoria Theatre from 4th – 8th October and Norwich Theatre Royal from 11th-15th October.

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