Florence and the Machine’s grand world tour, which began late last summer in North America and subsequently spanned shows as far afield as Melbourne and London, will again prove that distance is no barrier as the festival season looms, with imminent outdoor events in Brazil and Europe.
Masterminded by a largely new creative team, the lighting is based on an original concept from the highly imaginative Andi Watson, complementing Es Devlin’s set design. However, one long-term Florence collaborator is the show’s lighting director, Sam O’Riordan.
Upstaging supplied a cutting-edge inventory which included large quantities of GLP JDC1 hybrid strobes, some impression X4 Bar 10 and Bar 20 battens, original impression X4 on the stage and the mighty X4 L up in the rig. But most crucially, he specified a large number of the more recent JDC Line 1000, which features a unique LED pixel-mapping device to accompany the powerful strobe line.
By the time Watson joined the creative hub, Es Devlin and associate designer Ben Lucraft had already defined the concept. Later in the design process they were joined by Jason Ardizzone-West.
Into this tapestry, the LD chose his lighting with typical care and purpose. “Every fixture on the show was specifically chosen to create the light and visual effects that I wanted,” he says.
And one of the mission critical fixtures playing a key role has been the JDC Line 1000. “The majority are hidden behind the backdrop, but they certainly make their mark and have enabled me to realise a unique presentation of light on the stage,” confirms Watson. “I first saw the fixture at the Royal Opera House in July 2021. Already being very familiar with the JDC1, I loved the JDC Line, which definitely had something really unique and special about it.”
He continues: “GLP fixtures always have a colour range that I love and their overall fixture and sub cell controllability is something that is very important to me. The JDC Line seemed to be a very logical device for GLP to bring out to complement their other products.”
On this project, he really needed to rely on the fixture’s capabilities: “I originally wanted to put a full LED screen immediately behind an upstage rear projection (RP) screen but that didn’t work well with the budget so I proposed a double line of JDC Line fixtures on a motion-controlled truss behind the RP instead, to enable us to create a dynamic rear band of light. Unfortunately, the motion control was lost along the way, so the position and orientation of the truss, and hence the lights, ended up being fixed.”
Two continuous rows of JDC Line 1000 are hung from a single 12” truss, behind the RP, approximately 15” apart. “The result is stunningly beautiful,” says Watson. “it took some experimentation to make it work successfully, but it is truly magical now we have worked the fractional details out.”
In addition to the flown units a further five JDC Line 1000 are set in an arc at stage level behind Florence, with a single shorter JDC Line 500 vertically mounted at floor level behind each band member.
Complementing the JDC Lines are three layers of JDC1. One array is mounted on the horizontal trusses above the stage to provide top and audience facing lighting; another upstage line of JDC1 doubles as rear light and providing additional light on the upstage gauze and RP screen; and several more of the hybrid strobes are deployed on a stand upstage centre behind the altar set piece, which dynamically backlight the fabric and candelabras of the scenic element.
Finally, Watson pulled some classic GLP pieces from the catalogue including the impression X4 L. The designer admits: “I am an enormous fan of these fixtures and have used them on many productions previously.
“The X4 Bar units are amazing workhorses and their ability to create modulating, beautiful sheets of light when used together was crucial to this design. The original impression X4 units worked perfectly as a small, simple, set lighting fixture that could be tucked away next to the X4 Bar 20s.
“As for the X4 L units, they have such a stunning pixel mapping capability which, to me, is far superior to the ‘standard’ multiple concentric rings layout of the cells of most fixtures. The ability to create directional lighting modulations is so important to me and the X4 L fixtures allow that so beautifully.”
Andi Watson received great support for his endeavours, not least from Upstaging, who had fielded an “amazing” team. “They have a great understanding of art and design and really try to make possible what you are trying to create,” he says.
“I have worked with John Bahnick and John Huddleston for years and they never cease to amaze me with their support and encouragement.” He also praises the role of crew boss Robin Sheridan.
Neg Earth, who have a close relationship with Upstaging, picked up the tour when it reached Europe, supported by Robin Sheridan and Nick Metkin from Upstaging.
Andi Watson is more than delighted with the creative element of the show. “It is a beautiful show,” he exclaims. “The JDC Lines behind the RP screen gave me something that I have no idea how else I could have achieved which was wonderful. The other GLP fixtures behaved and performed admirably but I expected nothing less from them.
“What is fabulous to me, as a designer, is that because the GLP fixtures have such a great, and well thought out family connection, the different layers work truly beautifully together. The colours match, the fluidity makes sense, and the light output critically has the same purity and quality.”
Photo credit: ArtPunk Photography Caroline Anne