A zactrack PRO system is integrated with the lighting and sound control for Nicholas Hytner’s highly acclaimed stage production of Guys and Dolls, currently running at the Bridge Theatre in London.
Bunny Christie’s innovative staging concept and Paule Constable’s provocative lighting has transformed the theatre’s auditorium into a promenade environment, complete with 14 stage lifts which are utilised throughout for the show to denote different locations – bars, clubs, lounges, street corners, etc. – as the cast conveys the serious 1950s New York hustle.
The audience is positioned in different positions surrounding all the action and Paule’s associate Rob Casey explained that to key light all these characters effectively in this created space, they needed around 8 follow spots that could reach multiple positions. Given these circumstances and the exceptionally tight cueing needed for lighting, he and Paule thought a zactrack system would be the ideal solution to ensure the most accurate follow spotting and key lighting throughout the performance.
Rob mentions that sound designer Paul Arditti was also interested in using zactrack for enhancing the spatial differentiation of some of the audio elements. So, a combined joint departmental decision was made to get zactrack onto the show.
Ensuring that the principals were beautifully and realistically lit all around this huge dynamic and flexible space was the biggest creative challenge of the production for lighting, noted Rob.
Having used zactrack previously on ‘Cabaret’ and several other shows, Rob knew it would be great for this production where it tracks 8 actors, with around 24 lights that are calibrated to work with the system at different times as the protagonists pop up across the staging area. Paule also had previous experience with zactrack on the UK production of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’.
With so many different and varying angles to cover, it would have been impossible to light this show as effectively utilising conventional or manually operated follow spots.
The Trackers (Tags) are concealed mostly in the actor’s wigs, sometimes in the shoulders of their costumes.
“zactrack allows us to track everyone anywhere on the set with combinations of lights that work the best at their different locations,” explained Rob. He adds that while it takes some time to set everything up correctly, this is now his sixth production using zactrack and each time the process gets smoother.
Guys and Dolls also features 16 bold neon signs which provide big blocky saturated lightsources, so the general lighting aesthetic evolved from these and features lots of big, chunky back light, and is stark, contrasty, and hazy, which ramps up the drama and edginess of the piece, making it something quite different from what might be expected from this popular classic romantic comedy!
Rob mentions that the support from zactrack UK distributor Ambersphere Solutions at the start of the production period was “excellent as always” and they also received assistance from zactrack direct.
The zactrack system was purchased from Ambersphere Solutions by the production’s audio supplier, Stage Sound Services based in Cardiff, Wales.
Lighting is being run on an ETC EOS console programmed by Warren Letton and run by the Bridge Theatre’s in house crew. Their head of lighting is Adrian Hampton and he is also overseeing the day-to-day running of the zactrack system.