Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre – the largest theatre in the round in the country – has recently upgraded its lighting rig to incorporate SolaFrame fixtures from High End Systems.
The spectacular glass-walled space, seats up to 750 people on three levels and is a seven-sided theatre suspended from four large columns. Although most of the theatre’s work is self-produced and bespoke for the space, its current program requires a luminaire that can meet very different challenges; from straight plays, to musicals and even live music events.
“We were looking to replace our existing moving lights with a high quality LED unit and had waited a number of years for the right fixture to become available,” says Mark Distin Webster, head of lighting. “Following much consideration, we felt the SolaFrame 1000 was the moving light that gave us the best spectrum of choice whilst still maintaining a high quality core.”
The theatre’s unique design means all seats are less than 30 feet (9 meters) from the circular stage. To give lighting designers immediate access to useful angles and looks, seven SolaFrame 1000 fixtures are interspersed with pre-existing wash units.
“Additionally, we put a SolaFrame 3000 high-CRI unit on center as it’s always a popular lighting position and the 3000 has plenty of punch and huge amount of options,” explains Distin Webster. “Crucially, its 55 degree beam angle means it can fill a revolving stage in a single shot. Also, using the same product range allows for easy and precise color matching to the other units around it.”
A recent production of Gypsy at the Royal Exchange saw Lighting Designer Colin Grenfell at the helm. “The SolaFrame units have an unexpectedly bright output with the advantage of very low fan noise,” he remarks. “They have an open-white feeling just like a discharge lamp, great color mixing with lovely pastel shades, and a good CTO wheel – I wouldn’t hesitate to spec them again.”
“No moving light is ever going to be the perfect tool for every situation,” concludes Distin Webber. “But the SolaFrame is a really talented backbone for a moving light rig which gives the quality and versatility that a demanding producing theatre requires. It is a welcome addition to the Royal Exchange’s rig.”