New Grid at Shaftesbury Theatre
Tuesday, 17 April 2001
New Grid at Shaftesbury Theatre
Vertigo Rigging was called in to design, fabricate and install a completely new grid system into the famous Shaftesbury Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, in the heart of London’s West End theatreland. The month-long grid refurbishment project started directly after the get-out of the musical Napoleon which had completed its run at the theatre - a complex production also rigged by Vertigo.

The grid project was managed and overseen by Vertigo’s Ken Mehmed and all the new equipment was manufactured in Vertigo’s workshops in Bermondsey. Across the entire 140sq.m grid area, Vertigo stripped out all the old timbers from the Shaftesbury’s drop wells and replaced them with steel box-beams, two per bay. These beams have channels on the top for up and downstage adjustment of the drop pulleys and all connections were fitted with neoprene packers to reduce noise transfer through the walls to the adjacent building. A completely new set of sheaves and cables were fitted to bring it up current specifications.

With the new beams in place, runners can be spread between the drop wells across the stage, and additional sheaves and diverter pulleys can be inserted to spread the load. The result is that all the weight is relieved from the theatre’s timber joists and the load is applied to the main roof trusses and walls of the building. The new system is highly flexible and will offer productions an additional degree of versatility for the flying of scenery, props, drapes, LX bars and additional trussing or metalwork. Vertigo worked on the scheme in conjunction with consulting engineer Michael Jackson from Manchester-based MJ Consultants. As Vertigo completed sections of the grid, the theatre’s contractors moved along behind them installing new timber slats, so the whole grid facility has effectively been replaced and modernised, enabling it to deal efficiently with the most demanding 21st century productions.

The theatre originally opened in 1911 and was the last new theatre to be built on Shaftesbury Avenue. It is known for its limited off-stage storage space, a fact that hasn’t deterred the most ambitious of productions from playing there, including Tommy, Rent, Carousel, Napoleon.

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