Playing Now: Man Of La Mancha by Rob Halliday

Man of La Mancha  - London Coliseum. Photographer: Manuel Harlan

Man of La Mancha - London Coliseum. Photographer: Manuel Harlan

Rob has been working with Rick Fisher once again, this time on the new production of the musical Man of La Mancha at the London Coliseum.

Produced by Michael Grade and Michael Linnit with English National Opera, the show follows on from the success of their earlier collaborations on Sweeney Todd, Sunset Boulevard and Chess. Rarely seen in the UK since its 1969 West End debut, this new production is directed by Lonny Price, choreographed by Rebecca Howell, designed by James Noone, with costume design by Fontini Dimou, sound design by Mick Potter and lighting by Rick Fisher. Kelsey Grammar plays the lead role, alongside opera star Danielle deNiese, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Peter Polycarpou.

La Mancha continues the collaboration between Rick and Rob that includes productions of Billy Elliot in the US, Holland, Japan and touring the UK, Mata Hari in Japan and Consent in London, with Rob acting as the associate lighting designer and lighting programmer.

Careful planning was required to work around James Noone’s complex set, and to combine elements of ENO’s lighting rig with additional elements, particularly a complex wrap-around cyclorama lit by a combination of Robert Juliat Dalis and ChromaQ ColorForce LED fixtures. The rig also made use of Vari-Lite VL3500 Spot, Martin TW1 and PRG Icon Stage lighting fixtures, as well as Clay Paky’s Axcor Beam300 ‘LED Sharpy’ used to dramatic effect in the show’s Knight of the Mirrors sequence. Lighting equipment for the show was supplied by White Light, PRG and TSL.

Rob worked alongside ENO lighting supervisor Ian Jackson-French and senior lighting technician Adrian Plaut and the ENO lighting team plus production electrician John Delaney and production manager Patrick Molony to deliver the show on a tight schedule.

Man of La Mancha runs until June 8th at the London Coliseum.

Man of La Mancha [link]

Adelphi, +21 by Rob Halliday


Twenty-one years after working on the musical Chicago at London’s Adelphi Theatre with lighting designer Ken Billington, Rob is back at the Adelphi Theatre with lighting designer Ken Billington and the musical Waitress.

“Ken called and asked if I’d like to program the London production of Waitress,” Rob explains. “What else could I say other than - same theatre, twenty-one years later, why not? Ken of course immediately replied that we’d have no problem getting in to the theatre since we both look exactly the same now as we did then…”

With music and lyrics by the award-winning Sara Bareilles, book by screenwriter Jessie Melson and direction by Diane Paulus, the show has already enjoyed considerable success in New York and on tour in the USA.

The show’s design team also includes scenic designer Scott Pask, costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlab and sound designer Jonathan Deans.

Working with Billington are associate lighting designer Aaron Porter, assistant lighting designer Douglas Green, and production electrician Gerry Amies - another veteran of that original London production of Chicago.

Waitress is previewing now at the Adelphi Theatre.

Waitress London: [link]

A Day Trip to Blackburn by Rob Halliday

Exchange, Blackburn, during set-up

Exchange, Blackburn, during set-up

Rob was delighted to be able to squeeze in a day trip to Blackburn to help an old friend, lighting designer and visual artist Jen Kagan, with her project to use light to bring new life to the Blackburn Cotton Exchange as part of the Blackburn Festival of Light.

Rob has known and worked with Jen since 1993’s production of Piaf starring Elaine Paige, and their work together has included both re-creating existing productions (including David Hersey’s designs for Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Oliver! and Oklahoma!) and creating new designs for show such as Pan in Australia and the 2004 tour of Miss Saigon.

Jen has gone on to a successful career creating events and experiences that use the techniques of lighting and stagecraft to create interactive installation work to tell unique stories.

The Blackburn project sought a light-based scheme to bring the Cotton Exchange building - long subdivided into cinemas, now stripped back to its ceiling and walls but in a rather run-down state - to life, both to remind people of its grandeur and to raise the possibility of it taking on a new life, possibly as a performing arts venue.

Jen’s scheme combined lighting and video projection playing through the dramatic windows that run the length of the building.

With the project supported by local supplier HSL, an assortment of efficient, reliable equipment is in use - an important consideration given that the scheme must run for three months with minimal running costs and maintenance requirements. Control is from an ETC Ion console, which receives MIDI triggers from a series of ‘doorbells’ positioned outside the venue, allowing passers-by to trigger different events within the building; the Ion, in turn, triggers the video playback system, and also starts and stops the lighting at the start and end of each evening using real-time events.

Rob spent a day in Blackburn helping to configure the Ion, setting up a user-friendly magic sheet interface, a cue structure, chases, MIDI triggers and more (as well as focussing a few lights!), and then provided telephone support as the project moved to its opening night.

The project is in action now, and runs through to February 2019.

Blackburn Cotton Exchange Light Project: [link]
Jen Kagan: [link]
HSL: [link]
Blackburn Festival of Light: [link]

Helping The Lighting Programmers Of The Future by Rob Halliday

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Rob has recently completed his autumn season as a visiting tutor at Rose Bruford College in Sidcup, something that has become a regular feature of his autumn over the last few years.

In these appearances, Rob works with students on the College’s Creative Lighting Control course to help them improve both their console programming and their understanding of the way shows are put on stage. The aim is not to improve their ability on any specific lighting console, though of course that happens naturally as part of the sessions. Rather, it is to put them under the kind of pressure lighting programmers encounter in the real world, in a more controlled environment - in the same way that aircraft pilots get to practice in a simulator before being let loose with real passengers.

“This came from a realisation that both I and the course leader Rachel Nicholson had come to, that however well people think they are teaching themselves a console in a room with WYSIWYG and the manual, they subliminally set themselves exercises they already know the answer to, and so come to think they know everything about the desk,” Rob explains. “The problem is, the first time they sit next to a lighting designer who asks them to do something different, they get stuck. That moment in a theatre at the start of tech is not a good moment to get stuck!”

Instead, Rob “plays the role of grumpy lighting designer,” as he describes it, to groups of just two or three students at a time. The exercise uses a real show he has lit in the past - Tommy from the Royal Academy of Music in 2011 - modelled in WYSIWYG. Students have to patch the rig and set-up their showfile just as they would in the real world. Then work starts on lighting the busy opening number of the show - a three-minute, thirty-plus cue sequence including all manner of movement and chases. At first there are pauses and discussions as problems are encountered, but the aim is to get to a speed where you could keep up with a real rehearsal with real performers and a real, impatient director, learning along the ways such niceties as not just plunging the stage into darkness. “The result is that I’ve now lit this sequence more times than any other set of cues I’ve ever done,” Rob notes. “But it’s also fascinating each time to see what trips people up and, through that, to help with their deep understanding of both the way consoles and theatre technical rehearsals function. I think the result is that they go out into the real world better prepared - and certainly the success of some of the people who’ve come out of the course to become highly successful lighting programmers seems to back that up.”

Rose Bruford’s Creative Lighting Control course: [link]

Heading East... by Rob Halliday

With Storyhouse successfully open and its first three shows up and running, Rob has now headed east, to Tokyo, for the new Japanese production of Billy Elliot.

Rob is the Associate Lighting Designer and Lighting Programmer for the show, working alongside Lighting Designer Rick Fisher. Rob has previously served the same role on Billy’s last US tour, the Dutch production, and the current UK tour which is about to set off to Germany to play a season in Hamburg. He also adapted the original production from Strand to ETC lighting control during its long run in London.

Produced by HoriPro, Billy Elliot opens at the Akasaka ACT Theatre in Tokyo in late July and plays there until the autumn before transferring to Osaka.