Based in Vauxhall, Above The Stag Theatre is an award-winning theatre which focuses specifically on producing LGBT+ themed work, including new writing, musicals and revivals. The only full-time professional LGBT+ theatre in the UK, Above The Stag recently moved to a brand-new space in Vauxhall. Having supplied many of Above The Stag’s productions over the years, along with its reputation for providing state-of-the-art theatre installations, White Light was called upon to oversee the lighting installation within this new space.
The new Above The Stag Theatre is located beneath the arches at Vauxhall Station. WL was initially approached by Lighting Designer Jack Weir, acting as lighting consultant on the project, who met with WL’s Business Development Manager Jonathan Haynes. Jonathan comments: “Above The Stag was moving from an intimate venue to a brand-new, much-larger space. It was exciting to hear Jack’s ambitious plans and to work alongside him to turn these into a reality. The arches under Vauxhall are a really unique space to work in, with a huge amount of potential. What I walked into at my first site meeting was essentially an empty shell which would eventually house a theatre and studio. The finished install needed to really tap into this, providing the latest technology to push boundaries and keep up with the creative demands of their productions.”
Jack comments: “I’ve been part of Above The Stag Theatre for a few years now as one of the venue’s regular lighting designers. When the opportunity arose to get involved with the specification of the new theatre lighting installation, I was really keen to do so and ensure the venue’s new lighting resources would allow the production values of the shows to get even better”.
Following this initial discussion along with various site meetings, WL was then assigned with providing the complete lighting installation. The included a custom floor standing Milos truss structure, ETC ThruPower racks for the theatre and studio as well as power and data distribution with a Wieland cord patch and fully networkable lighting system.
Jonathan explains: “The first priority was to get a truss structure designed and installed. We then worked through some design ideas for the main bulk of the install. The key priority was maximum flexibility. On site power is limited and so we explored various options to work through the various challenges we were coming up against. For this, I brought on board WL’s Systems Design Engineer Ian Davies who was able to take Jack’s brief and turn this into a fully workable system. During this initial period, Ian worked on site with the WL team to complete the installation”.
Not only did WL oversee the entire lighting installation within both spaces, but also did so within a very limited time frame. Jonathan explains: “The opening season of the new venue had been announced so we had essentially a 6 week time frame from being awarded the contract to getting everything in place before the first show. That said, by working closely with our suppliers and manufacturers to manage lead times on kit, along with close collaboration between Jack and our team of expert site technicians, we were able to achieve this tight deadline”.
Alongside the installation, WL also supplied a range of fixtures. These include ETC Color Source Spots, ETC Color Source Pars, Martin Rush Par 2 RGBW Zooms, Martin MAC Aura XBs, Chauvet Rogue R3 Spots and a cluster of conventional lanterns – all controlled from an ETC Ion XE20.
Jack explains: “At the forefront of the vision for the new rig was flexibility. Having state-of-the-art LED lighting fixtures from ETC as part of the in-house stock means that we longer rely on the expense of hiring externally. Additionally, we’ve also been quite careful about how power and data is distributed throughout the theatre, ensuring there are few limitations when it comes to designing shows there. We also have Martin MAC Auras and the brand-new Chauvet Rogue R3 Spot as part of the in-house stock. Think of it as an Aladdin’s Cave of lighting!”.
Jonathan adds: “Above The Stag wanted their lighting inventory to include the latest technology, as well as be industry standard; capable of holding up against the demands of even the most critical lighting designers. There needed to be a broad mix of tools which could support a wide variety of shows”.
Above The Stag Theatre has now opened in its new home, with the inaugural production being Beautiful Thing which was lit by Jack.
Jack comments: “I think it’s fair to say that opportunities like this don’t happen often i.e. where a venue you frequently design for allows you to lead on its new state-of-the-art theatre lighting. It’s also my first time providing consultancy on a project of this scale. That said, I’ve been in very safe hands with WL and I’m really pleased with the final outcome. It was a project that took months of planning, meetings and talks; not to mention the hours of hard labour. Thankfully, the end result is very special. I’ve just designed Grindr: The Opera which is running there throughout the summer. This show in particular takes a greater advantage of the new LED and tungsten fixtures, moving lights and flexible infrastructure that rivals anything else in the London OﬀWestEnd scene and I’m really pleased with what was achieved with the new rig.
He adds: “It is a really exciting venue to design for because what we can achieve creatively with our in-house tools is so much greater than before. There’s been a significant leap from the old venue to the new premises on all levels, and I’m really excited to see the wealth of shows that are yet to come. It’s a fiercely impressive new venue for London theatre and I’m so pleased to be part of it”.
Jonathan concludes: “The Above The Stag project was a great example of how we are able to use our years of experience working within theatres, alongside our expert teams, to provide a solution bespoke to their exact needs. It has been great working with Jack in a slightly diﬀerent capacity than usual and help him realise his design ideas. I very much look forward to seeing how future productions and designs work and develop in Above The Stag’s new home”.
Photos courtesy of Above The Stag Theatre.