Lighting and visuals rental specialist HSL supplied lighting equipment to 32 high profile Qdos pantomime productions all over the UK for their 2018-19 season, together with a full rigging – truss and motors package – plus Kinesys automation for “Cinderella” at Glasgow’s SEC.
Qdos has a reputation for producing fantastic pantos – action-packed with smart humour related to contemporary music and social and political issues as well as some more traditional theatrical treatments – all served up to delighted audiences with extremely high production values.
Each year the bar is raised in terms of the technical excellence and ambition of all these shows, running just as fast as the supersonic pace of the innuendoes, slapstick and uniquely panto magic!
Lighting the colourful, trippy fantasy environments that characterise this specific genre of comedic melodrama is huge fun for lighting designers, and this year HSL worked with 17 different LDs and liaised with 25 production LX’s who made it happen on the various sites which included all the regional capitals – Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.
HSL’s 2018 panto team was led by Jordan Hanson, assisted by Emma Turner, and included account handlers Sean McGlone and Mark Shakeshaft, all well-known for their multi-tasking and number-crunching abilities.
Having co-ordinated hectic panto seasons for some years, the Blackburn based company has honed the process to a fine art under Jordan’s direction… so much so that they were able to seamlessly increase the capacity to accommodate 31 shows in 2017 – from 20 in 2016!
Jordan comments: “Fluid communication, having a cool head for logistics and being organised about the prep is essential. Ensuring the whole team is onboard from the start and in touch and in tune with each other and the overall picture at all times is also key. Qdos has incredibly high standards, and we enjoy rising to the challenge each year”.
Jordan starts work on the upcoming season in close collaboration with Qdos’s production director Mark Sherwood in May, and at this point starts thinking about the crew needed to deliver the project with the required precision and efficiency.
Qdos then appoints the LDs and Jordan starts asking them for their wish lists in the summer. With that much kit going out the door at what is also a peak time in the general touring schedule, it helps if any specific lighting requests are received early on.
Glasgow is typically the largest show in terms of production and venue size and this year lighting was designed by Tim Oliver.
Other key ones were “Snow White” at the London Palladium, “Peter Pan” in Birmingham and “Goldilocks” in Newcastle, all lit by Ben Cracknell, together with Edinburgh’s “Beauty & The Beast” and “Aladdin” in Bradford with lighting designed by Matt Clutterham. Ben also lit the show in Darlington while Matt lit four others.
Emma co-ordinated the mission that was custom gobos, which this year included over 3,200 gobos for several different types of moving lights.
At HSL they were fitted into all the moving lights and addressed; a massive task which took around six weeks alone! At the end of the season, they will all be returned to the warehouse with their original gobo sets, another painstaking task which is overseen diligently.
Other impressive stats for the 2018-19 season include the supply of 2,500 intelligent lighting fixtures – a mix of moving lights, LED and ‘pixel’ sources. The number of generics approached 1000 – profiles, fresnels, PARs and blinders, and to feed power and data to all of these there was over 100 miles of cable – multicore, power and data. Around 1500 boom arms were supplied for rigging various lights.
HSL also supplied lighting control and follow spots to some venues where these were not available in house.
This and a variety of associated kit including power distros customised for each production all left Blackburn in between the 16th November and 13th December.
There was an intense two-week period within that timeframe when 29 trucks alone were loaded and dispatched, including three trucks for Glasgow. Some trucks shared loads and the task was optimised at 4 trucks a day. For tipping, the warehouse handled up to 7 trucks a day, with the last one returning on 28th January 2019.
Just prior to loading, 16 of the 17 production LX’s came to Blackburn to engage in and oversee their relevant preps.
“The interdepartmental co-ordination and attention to detail needed to keep everything rolling is intense” stated Jordan, adding that to accommodate amendments, changes and tweaks to the specs, their workflow must be fluid, streamlined and smooth.
Scheduling is another challenge… ensuring that every show has dedicated prep days to deal with its gobos and other specific lighting elements.
The run-up to panto season starts properly in June, and the current year’s project is finally closed in March of the next year… so resource wise it is a 9-month operation building up to a crescendo in November and December.
Mark Sherwood sums up: “Another amazing season by HSL! To service 32 shows all of which open pretty much at the same time and yet preserve the one-to-one service with the lighting designers, production LX teams and the venues is no mean task. Jordan acts as our conduit to all the departments and his 24-hour commitment to the product is the best!”
Photos : Louise Stickland