A tale of two 99s

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Final scene from the Mostly G and S concert production of The Yeomen of the Guard
Final scene from the Mostly G and S concert production of The Yeomen of the Guard
Strange to relate but the last two weekends have seen me plot two entirely separate shows and wind up with 99 cues for each.

The first was the Mostly G&S production of The Yeomen of the Guard. Although concert in nature I tried to give it a theatrical feel and made good use of the Oakwood Centre’s excellent ETC Source 4 Junior Zooms and Parnels, aided by some much older Strand 813, 823, 123 and 743 lanterns. The desk there is a Frog and it and I got along really well this time around; I was particularly happy to suss out how to properly edit cues. My first time there six months back had left me short of time to sort out the more subtle aspects of this board which, given a lack of command line, needs to be handled differently. Back-up is via 1.44in floppy drive – I knew there was a reason I kept a box of those!

Then to the Kenton in Henley-on-Thames, Britain’s fourth oldest working theatre. The hard-working volunteer team there run a tight ship and given the timescale I was happy to leave the fixed 70 lantern rig in place and colour and focus it in situ for Sainsbury Singers’ Strictly Musicals. There’s a really eclectic mix of lanterns in this theatre, with Strand Harmony, Patt23, Patt23N and a pair of 743s front of house and a bar each of 10 Patt123s, PreludeFs and Cantata Fs on stage. I particularly liked the ‘cyc’, a well-faired back wall painted dove grey and lit by five four-way sets of Coda 500s. It took the light very well and also worked well with some gobos projected onto it.

The board there is a Strand M24 Tempus, solid but definitely limited by its era. The monitor had a loose connection which caused it to blue screen a few times and there are no point cues (although you can link cues out of turn) so a frantic afternoon of plotting kept op Peter Harley on his toes. Back-up on the Tempus was to a tape recorder in its day; not something we could do so I must admit to somewhat reluctantly leaving the board on Saturday night, hoping it would all still be there on the Sunday.

The Kenton has DMX in place now so I’ll be taking a more modern board in if I get to go again. Speaking of which, after much prevarication I’ve finally bitten the bullet and ordered Light Factory, along with hardware playback and programming wings. I’ve looked at several PC and Apple-based solutions including the very well recommended MagicQ. But despite the dual appeal of this system being free to download and able to run natively on a Mac I just didn’t find it intuitive; Light Factory is probably a lot more old-fashioned in its user interface but that suits me just fine.

If I can get my run own rig converted to DMX in time I’ll run a show on this system in February next year…and be practising and testing before then.

Next stop is the Reading Concert Hall next weekend to light Strictly Musicals for Sainsbury Singers again; the music will be the same but the setting very different. Will this be a third 99? I doubt it but who knows.

Tickets are still available, so if you come along I’ll be at the back of the balcony calling the cues that should hopefully make the venue’s Mac 500s, 600s and par can scrollers dance to some of the West End’s best tunes.

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