Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London has become the first open air theatre in the UK to install Ayrton Perseo fixtures as part of its plan to update to a more environmentally responsible lighting rig.
20 Perseo Profiles have been supplied to this venue by White Light for the full 20-week summer season. White Light worked in close collaboration with the teams at Regent’s Park and Ambersphere, Ayrton’s exclusive distributor for the UK, to understand the aims, and facilitate the provision of the correct LED fixtures, to meet all the theatre’s requirements.
Joe Kirk, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s head of lighting, was determined to make changes to the lighting inventory when he took on the role last year. “I wanted to replace the old rig of power-intensive tungsten and discharge moving lights with more sustainable LED replacements, starting with 20 heavy discharge moving heads, which were housed in large, unsightly wooden boxes on temporary truss towers,” he said.
“The weatherproofing was not very effective, the movers would overheat in hot weather and their fans would frequently get blocked with pollen,” Kirk continued. “Moving and maintaining 45kg fixtures at a height of 10m was both dangerous and inconvenient, often resulting in the need to refocus other lamps that got knocked in the process. They had to go!”
However, the replacement fixtures also needed to meet some strict criteria to be suitable for theatre lighting.
“We needed high CRI, good colour mixing, good gobos and good quality dimming,” said Kirk. “Most IP rated moving lights cater more for rock and roll than theatre, so factors such as good dimming curve or the ability to differentiate between Lee 201 or Lee 202, are harder to come by. For theatre, the quality of the colour and the dimming really does matter.”
“On top of this, it’s also really important we have bright fixtures because, as an open-air theatre, our shows begin in daylight, which means we need a lot of intensity,” he continued. “The stage is 17m wide and the truss towers 10m high, and most IP rated fixtures are heavy and not very bright, so we needed a moving light bright enough to cope with our throw distances, but not heavy or high maintenance. I designed the season rig, so I had a responsibility to make sure any replacement was equally as good as an indoor fixture and something that a theatre lighting designer was going to be happy with.”
White Light, with whom Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has a long association, brought in Ambersphere’s Briony Berning to demo the Perseo along with other fixtures. “I was really impressed with Perseo’s theatre-friendliness, not only in terms of its high CRI, colour-mixing, gobo selection and zoom, but also its size, weight, intensity and reliability,” said Kirk. “The reliability has made a huge difference to our maintenance budget and schedule. We no longer need to do a lamp round – and when the fixtures are 10m up a vertical truss tower, this is absolutely amazing. And the problem of having different lamp colours each time one is replaced has simply gone away. My lamp budget has simply disappeared into the season hire budget.”
The Perseo Profiles are rigged on the four 10m-high front-of-house temporary truss towers, where they are completely exposed to the elements from April through to September. “The IP rating meant we could at last get rid of those ridiculous wooden boxes that protected the old fixtures, and the Perseos now look so neat and tidy and blend in with the rest of the lighting rig,” said Kirk. “They are the only moving light fixtures we allow LDs to re-rig!”
Kirk reported that the incoming LDs are very impressed with Perseo, “which is great as it is not a light a theatre LD would naturally come across while working indoors,” he said. “They are significantly brighter than anything we have had before and have become absolute workhorses, which will be heavily used on every show this season.”
“One of the most amazing features of the LED rig is, because of the brightness of the units, the shows are now lit the very moment they start,” added Stuart Porter, White Light’s business development manager for hires. “You can definitely tell the difference, even in daylight – so the magic begins from the very top of the show.”
As an open-air theatre nestled in the centre of a London park, sustainability and environmental accountability is a big concern. “Ayrton pays a lot of attention to ways in which it can improve its environmental credentials and this is important for us also,” explained Kirk. “The power savings from changing twenty 1,200kW discharge units to twenty 600W Perseo fixtures are huge! Pre-show rig checks also use minimal amounts of power now as Perseo can be switched on and off instantaneously, whereas the old discharge units would remain on from the start of rig check at 5pm. That’s a game-changer from a sustainability point of view.”
“From a production point of view the Perseo Profiles are amazing and reliable; from a design point of view the designers are happy with how bright the colours are and absolutely love everything about them, and from an environmental point of view Perseo is a natural go-to fixture,” concluded Kirk. “So, I am very, very happy with them, and so happy to be rid of those boxes!”