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LD: Tim Mitchell Prod LX: Adam Povey Photo: Paul Coltas
Over 65 years after its first production, the popularity of the musical Guys and Dolls is as great as ever. The success of the 2014/15 Chichester Festival Theatre production has seen it transfer to the West End, with a new tour running concurrently. SLX has worked closely with lighting designer Tim Mitchell to help make the transition.
Produced by Runaway Entertainment, the show started an eight week run at London's Savoy Theatre then transferred to the Phoenix Theatre. At the same time it tours 18 UK and Irish cities through to the end of July 2016. As an associate artist at Chichester Festival Theatre, Tim designed the lighting for the original run. Yet, unusually, he won't be heard to say the word “compromise” regarding lighting for the tour.
"Budget and time are obviously the two main creative constraints for a tour and we had to massively modify the rig. But I think we've actually improved it. It looks a lot sharper," he says.
Tim has worked with SLX on a number of recent productions, including Anything Goes and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
"I'm realistic, I know that in an ideal world you want everything, but there's no point in going for the biggest rig on a tour if you can't do the get in and focus in time," he says.
Taking Guys and Dolls from the thrust stage of Chichester, via a residency in the West End, to anything from three days to a fortnight in venues on tour meant that Tim had to make wholesale changes to the original lighting design. Ever the pragmatist, he specified fixtures that would deliver the effects he needed and could be rigged and focused quickly. These included 40 Martin Professional MAC Vipers, Auras and 700s and 12 Clay Paky Alpha Washes.
SLX also introduced Tim to the Martin Professional RUSH Par 2 - a fixture which, by his own confession, he has "sort of fallen in love with."
"They're like a Mac Aura, but with no pan and tilt - small, really bright, you just need power and data for the zoom. They are really useful for the short turnarounds on tour," he says. "I think it's also important to make life on the road enjoyable for the crew, or else they're not going to want to do it. So, while putting together a rig with as little dimming as possible is good from the logistics point of view, it has also helped in terms of reducing the crew's workload."
The show's backdrop is a huge light-up wall which forms part of the set, so Tim and production electrician Adam Povey worked together to assemble a rig that could be wheeled in and put up quickly and easily around it.
"All the equipment I wanted was available at SLX and it was ready and waiting at their Bristol premises when Adam needed to prep it. There was no waiting for anything, which can happen," says Tim. "Frankly they've been brilliant on all the recent shows I've done with them. We all understand that sometimes things can go wrong, and if they do SLX reacts immediately, it is so important that the rental company is on the ball and sorts out any issues quickly, then we're happy.”
"In terms of appearance I think the show now looks better, which I'm really happy about, and we've had fantastic service from SLX. I've no complaints at all!"