UK - Oh no they didn't! Oh yes they did! The lighting team at The Grand Theatre Blackpool is using an Avolites Tiger Touch II console to control the magical light show for the historic theatre house's star-studded Christmas pantomime performance of fairy-tale classic, Cinderella.
The show marks the 21st anniversary of production company, UK Productions, one of the country's leading musical theatre and pantomime production groups. On board for this year's celebratory performance was lighting designer Andy Webb, who has worked with UK Productions for the past three years on their festive Blackpool shows. Last year, Webb introduced The Grand Theatre's lighting team to the Avolites Tiger Touch II as the production console for Aladdin, and this year he has specified the console again for Cinderella.
"It's nice going back to a venue and a house team that you're familiar with," says Webb. "This helps with designing and allows me to push the envelope creatively. For Cinderella, one of the key scenes is the transformation of the pumpkin into the crystal carriage. We even have real Shetland ponies to add into the mix, so lighting is about being aware of how to best exploit those visual moments."
Like the production's eponymous heroine, Webb found himself faced with a time conundrum, with a week to program, focus, rehearse and cue the complex show, which has over 300 lighting cues. Webb relied on the intuitive setup of the Tiger Touch II to weave a little time-saving magic into the process.
"Everyone is so short on time," says Webb. "Having a flexible console means that you can design something on the stage, put it into a cue and then revisit it when you have a spare moment. Then, when you are happy, you can start to organically form your cue stacks. Avolites allows us to do that really well."
To operate the show this year, Webb handed over to The Grand's Chief LX, John Hopwood. "This is the second year that John has used the Tiger Touch II," says Webb. "Cinderella is doing 52 shows over five weeks, so John really gets the chance to learn the console. What's great with the Tiger Touch II and Titan v10.1 software is that I don't have to leave John loads of my lighting plans, because it's all there on the console and accessible through the touchscreen. If we were using a console that was more syntax-based, rather than intuitive, he'd need to have all my plans and fixture ID numbers. That's what he really likes about the console, having everything he needs available, clear and easy to access."
Webb also singles out some of Titan's latest features for their contribution to ensuring an efficient workflow between him and Hopwood. "With the new added 'halo rings', I'm able to colour code the entire rig on the touchscreen," says Webb. "It's a really effective way of referencing and makes it easy to find your way around a rig at a glance."
The Tiger Touch II has proved so popular at The Grand that Hopwood is using the console to operate not only the Cinderella shows, but also a few one-off Christmas concerts. "I think that Avolites is really beginning to remove the theatre world's preconceptions of the brand being only a rock 'n' roll desk manufacturer," says Webb. "As more people from this sector see Avo boards in operation and just how easy it is to do things with Titan, it's becoming very clear that Avolites can hold its own against anything else."
Cinderella runs at The Grand Theatre Blackpool from 15 December to 7 January and stars Melanie Walters of Gavin and Stacy as Fairy Godmother, Olivia Birchenough of Children's TV show Milkshakeas Cinderella and JJ Hamblett of pop band Union J as Prince Charming.