The National Theatre’s Huw Llewellyn with the Diamond 4
The National Theatre’s Avolites Diamond 4 Elite console has been in action on their 11 week summer outdoor season, featuring over 150 free riverside events, 6 days a week, presented in and around Theatre Square, an outdoor piazza and performance space on the South Bank, just outside the NT entrance.
The console was purchased by the National Theatre’s LX department, headed by Huw Llewellyn – they needed a powerful, flexible and reliable desk that had good improvisational qualities.
They also bought an Avolites eDMX wireless DMX system, which is invaluable for controlling fixtures that are spread out all around the building. This is their second eDMX system – the first one controls the NT’s permanent architectural lighting installation.
The Summer Season performance spectacles are as diverse as you can imagine – from surreal Barcelonan hairdressing duo, Sienta la Cabeza who hosted one of the Saturday club nights (pictured) to performance, drama, music and dancing from all eras and corners of the world. The lively events programme is an invigorating and popular extension of the National’s own traditionally staged production schedule.
When it comes to lighting these events
explains Llewellyn, flexibility is paramount. There’s a standard stage
position, but performers can change this if they wish and play at either or
both ends of the space or in the middle. Whatever and wherever anyone decides
to perform, Llewellyn and his team have to be able to light around them.
They also like to involve as much of the surrounding building architecture in
the shows as possible, both as a way of getting additional lighting positions
as well as to actually light elements of the building. The Lyttelton
Theatre’s concrete fly tower is regularly used as a projection surface.
A typical show will utilise a variety of fixtures – PARs, Martin Robo Colors,
Source Four PARs, MAC 500s moving heads, RoboColor 575 XP scans – from the
stage lighting pool, and they also tap into the building’s permanent
lighting scheme consisting of Studio Due City Colors and Vari*Lite 3000s.
These are also run on an Avo eDMX system, so are extremely easy to add into
the performance lighting rig for the evening.
They sometimes hire in additional effects
lights like PixelLines, which are hung around the balconies, and there’s
also a laser and two additional projection screens above the stage on the
balcony edge. For Sienta la Cabeza, Llewellyn added some Pulsar Chroma Balls
onstage for extra surreality … the haircuts became more outlandish and the
sounds became groovier as night wore on.
“As you can imagine” says Llewellyn, “Especially on days like Saturdays
where we have multiple events happening throughout the day from Saturday
morning right through to Sunday morning, and programming time is either
limited or non existent, you end up busking much of the show. This is where
the D4 comes into its own. Avo’s have always been excellent hands-on desks
and this has all the power plus all the flexibility and speed you can possibly
He adds that having 8 DMX lines out the back of the console is also useful; although they run wireless as their main DMX system, it’s great to be able to hook in extra wired strings from other stages or areas direct or into a wireless encoder pod, and control them from the D4.
With the Theatre Square light show in full swing, the spectacle is clearly visible from across the river. If there’s good music, people will flock over to join in and also look on from the vantage points offered by Waterloo Bridge … it’s proved a massive success as an impromptu close to a Saturday night out on the town, and has also introduced many new people to alternative types of performance.