The Minack open-air theatre in Cornwall, built on a craggy cliff overlooking the sea at Porthcurno, is the last place you would expect to see SGM’s award-winning G-Spot strutting its stuff. Situated just four miles from Land’s End, and constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea, this unique theatre has been staging performances in front of up to 800 people for 85 years.
One theatre company that visits regularly is the Cambridge University Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and for this year’s week-long presentation of The Sorcerer they decided they would light the stage from vantage points up in the cliffs entirely with LED — the first time it has been done at the theatre.
Lighting designer Jon French, who had been part of general crew last year, immediately turned to SGM’s IP65-rated G-Spot, having seen its features and weatherproof properties spectacularly demonstrated at the PLASA Show.
Although studying Computer Science he has a technical production background, and after talking to Ian Kirby at SGM UK, seven of the G-Spots from the inventory of White Light were winging their way to deepest Cornwall, and then carried by hand down the cliffs. While two moving heads were positioned flat on their bases on top of a giant concrete archway at stage left, another was rigged (stage right) from existing house rigging, clad to the cliffs, while four further stage-facing fixtures were set in the VIP box.
“It’s a lovely space but is tricky to light — for example you can't backlight of course because of the sea!” he said. “The theatre is also quite asymmetrical but we were fortunate because the G-Spots have a great zoom and tilt range. They handled everything we threw at them.”
After the eight performances, which took place over six days, Jon French had nothing but praise for the G-Spots. “These are fantastic fixtures and performed absolutely faultlessly in all weathers.”
“It’s a huge advantage having LED because the theatre only has a 100A permanent supply. In previous shows we have needed conventional tungsten washes to get decent colour rendering, particularly of skin tones, and struggled with power usage. But the colour mixing on the G-Spot was fantastic — and even for face lighting I didn't miss the tungsten at all.”
Furthermore, the fact that protective domes on the fixtures were not required saves considerable time when rigging, notes Jon French. “In that respect, traditional moving heads with domes are often problematic and inconvenient. And with productions wishing to become more environmentally friendly, the ability to use versatile IP-rated LED fixtures ticks so many boxes.”
Minack Theatre Manager, Phil Jackson, added his endorsement. “The impact on our power supply in using LEDs such as G-Spot is such that we will now be adding LEDs to our standard rig for next season. We were extremely impressed at the apparent ease with which the G-Spot stood up to the rigours of a cliff side theatre.”
Lighting designer Jon French with his SGM G-Spot moving heads
Photos: © Andrew Booker and Alan Egan