Adlib continues its work with top comedians having just supplied full production – sound, lighting and video – for Jack Whitehall’s sold out, 3 week ‘At Large’ UK arena tour. The Liverpool based company was delighted to be on the road with one of the UK’s most exciting and successful talents having previously supplied production for his ground-breaking 2014 arena tour which was staged in the round.
Having appropriate production in the right proportions and places is a key to delivering comedy on a large scale. It is about presenting this very intimate and personal style of entertainment & communication and ensuring that audiences in larger venues enjoy all of the same essential experiences of a one-to-one scenario.
All of the crew were pleased to be working with TPi Award winning production manager Neil McDonald who made sure everything was well organised and that there was a great flow of communications. Johnny Dodkin was the ever-cheerful tour manager who kept everything in check and Adlib were thrilled to be back working with Chambers Touring Ltd on another exciting comedy project.
Steve “Patto” Pattison mixed FOH, working with a strong team from Adlib including monitor engineer / sound crew chief Marc Peers and systems tech Tony Szabo, KSE, who were responsible for the precision and detail required to ensure that every seat in the house had crisp, clear and audible speech.
It was a case of only one live mic onstage … but THAT mic was completely mission critical, and so the pressure was on for the audio department.
Tony worked with Kenny Perrin on the system which was an L-Acoustics mix of K1 and K2 specified by Adlib.
A large amount of speakers are needed for comedy to take every punch line to the far reaches of the house. It’s all about articulation which is high frequencies, so delays are a must for the back of the room, and side hangs for the side seats which were sold up to 180 degrees to the stage.
The front PA hangs – in their largest configuration – comprised 14 x K1 with four KARA downs, with side hangs of 12 x K2 … increased to 16 for the largest venue, London’s O2 Arena.
The delays were typically 6 x K1 in two hangs with flown amp racks for easier cabling and improved sightlines. A total of 46 x amplifiers were used, mostly the new LA12X (including flown racks).
A total of eight SB28 subs were only active for the grand entrance at the top of Act 2 and for the walk-in / intermission music.
All of the front and lip fills were KARA, picked for their low profiles and to cover the first 10 metres of the stalls, and one additional KARA box was on the front centre of stage as a prop!
Taking care of the processing was one of Adlib’s Lake / Dante fibre systems and Tony used Meyer SIM 3 & SMAART v8 for audio analytics and measurement.
Patto’s console of choice was a DiGiCo S31 – a first time out for both him and Tony – while Marc used an S21 for monitors. Needing only 8 channels, the tiny footprints of the consoles were an ideal mix of quality and size for the application.
The stage box was the DiGiCo SD Rack bringing the same pre-amps as the larger consoles connected via a hi-definition BNC coax cable from FOH to stage, run at 48K to allow for full redundancy in both directions – so both consoles effectively would have backed each other up in the event of an incident … a contingency that happily wasn’t needed!
Marc Peers’ set-up utilised one of Adlib’s Wardrobes, an ingenious fully configurable double width case - in this case containing SD racks, UPS and RF units, shout speakers, power distro - designed for push-in-plug-in-power-up convenience and speed.
Also, included on this was a brand-new Green-GO network based digital intercom system. This was used for all the show communications, connecting lighting, sound, video, stage management and show calling via a mix of wireless and wired headsets.
Marc had two flown ARCS boxes for side fills – clarity over volume - two wireless DPA headset mics, two hand-held mics and one set of Sennheiser IEMs.
Keeping on top of the RF management and ensuring frequencies remained clear was a major task which required time and attention and again, without margin for any error.
Marc was impressed with the S21, it was the first time he’d used one, and also appreciated the reliability and quality of the DPA headset mics.
The lighting and video elements of the production equation were co-ordinated by Adlib’s Kevin Byatt who was also a crew-chief on the road.
Lighting designer Tom Webber was on his first Jack Whitehall tour, but he has lit other well-known comedians and is skilled in regards to the nuances needed to light the genre effectively and on camera. Due to the scale of an arena show, many people are watching Jack Whitehall on the IMAG screens to catch the close-ups and facial expressions involved to get maximum impact for the gags.
Although there were challenges, like not blinding Cruise the horse on which Whitehall made his entrance, installing the special ramp for it to enter stage every day and at least on one occasion shovelling hot droppings offstage during the show … compared to the 2014 tour, the end-on stage format made things more straightforward!
Style wise, it called for an essentially theatrical approach but treating it as an arena show with a more cavernous space in mind.
The first half was played in a true stand-up style with approximately 10 ft. of stage depth in front of a Kabuki curtain emblazoned with ‘Jack Whitehall’. This dropped at the top of the Act 2 to reveal a set, complete with scenic pros arch and columns, with a circular staircase in the middle designed by Jonathan Paul Green, which was one of the starting points for both the lighting and video designs.
Four lighting trusses were installed. The upstage one featured Martin MAC Aura LED washes with one MAC Viper Profile and there was an LED starcloth drop right behind.
The upstage mid truss was rigged with 10 x Viper profiles and 6 x Auras, and the downstage mid truss had another four Viper Profiles and 6 x Auras. The front truss was in front of another that suspended the scenic pros arch, and on this ‘were five more Auras … which also doubled up to provide very effective back light for the first half.
Flown in front of the stage was an advanced truss with 6 x Viper Profiles, 12 x MAC Quantum Washes and 13 Chauvet Strike 4 LED blinders to highlight the fans.
There were also 10 x MAC Auras on the floor along with four ARRI 2Ks and eight CK ColorBlaze LED battens for some additional colouring to uplight the set. Jeff Bond came on-board as lighting tech and worked alongside Tom who operated the show, himself using two Hog 4s running in sync as live and backup.
His challenge was to light the performance space generally and then to layer texture and atmospherics on top, as well as to execute a large number of very specific lighting cues which had to be spot-on in timing and location. All of this demanded total concentration.
The lighting package was completed with two of Adlib’s brand new Robert Juliat Merlin followspots.
The IMAG mix was captured by three Sony HXC-100 cameras, operated by Adlib crew members Charlie Rushton (taking over from Jon Priest who left on paternity leave), Colin Telfer and Rob Bickerstaff and they also tech’d the LED screen.
The two FOH cameras were fitted with Fuji 88 lenses, and the other one, anchored at stage left, with an HJ40 lens. They were directed by Iain Christie using a Blackmagic ATEM switcher.
Playback content was supplied to Adlib by Whitehall’s own production team. It was stored and run from a laptop running QLab, operated by Matthew Brown and sent to Iain to output to the two IMAG screens.
The screens were made up from 91 panels of Adlib’s Absen A3 Pro LED, each measuring 6.5 metres wide with a drop of 3.5 metres – the landscape format complimenting the stage design and the arena setting perfectly.
At Large was a huge success, selling out everywhere and bringing many, many laughs and lots of warmth across the UK during a cold and grey February!
Adlib Client Manager Phil Kielty commented “When we did Jack’s last arena tour it gained rave reviews for making live comedy ‘an event’ … so riding onto stage on horseback for this one …we can safely say he repeated the feat!”
He comments that Adlib is fortunate to work with some of the world’s top comedians in the UK - from Jerry Seinfeld & Louis C.K. to Russell Howard & Ricky Gervais and says, “Jack is up there with them all! He is a fearless comedian and his production is one of the best live stand up shows out there at the moment. We are all thrilled that Adlib is supplying audio, lighting and video to the amazing ‘At Large’ tour, and I’d like to thank Hannah and everyone at Chambers for enabling us to be part of something really special!”
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest