Currently wowing theatre-goers in South Africa is African Footprint - a song and dance spectacular, which is set to stride its way into the international arena.

Scheduled to tour Europe later this year, the current home of the production is in the replica of the original 19th century Globe Theatre at Gold Reef City. It was Solly and Abe Krok’s idea to copy the original Globe Theatre at Gold Reef City - a theme park recreating early Johannesburg, taking the opportunity to utilise an intended ‘mini-plex’ cinema whose backers had pulled out.

They brought in consultant Richard Loring, and his production manager Debbie Batzofin, who in turn approached lighting designer Denis Hutchinson. The roof of this intended small cinema was raised by two metres, which allowed seven metres clear over the stage and a balcony in which patrons wouldn’t have to kneel. But even so, it wasn’t possible to include a proper dome in the auditorium (much less a fly tower over the stage). The alternative was a barrel vault ceiling, in spite of the acoustic disadvantages it presented. Fortunately, it was accepted that the type of show staged in the venue would always use amplified sound. Hence acoustically absorbent tiles for the ceiling were specified as part of a scheme to make the room nearly, but not quite, acoustically dead.

Another fortunate outcome was that the control area for both lighting and sound could be incorporated as part of the auditorium. Sound equipment for the 306-seat venue includes a generous 40-channel DDA mixing desk with 64 balanced lines between control and stage, with a further 12 to the amp room. Speaker lines run through a patchbay from the QSC amplifiers to normal cluster and side-fill speakers (EV Sx300), sub bass (EV Xcb) and "whispers" (EV S40) for both the front rows and the balcony, as well as to effects positions at the rear of the auditorium, and onstage for monitors. Signal travels through the suspension cables of all the auditorium speakers, which makes for a very neat look. The processing is by Rane and Lexicon and other sound equipment includes Sennheiser (radio), AKG and Shure microphones and Marantz and Sony playback systems. The system was initially designed by Simon James and Denis Hutchinson and all quoting suppliers were given the opportunity to tailor the requirements to take advantage of the strengths of their particular products - an approach which produced some interesting ideas and a final system which appears to be pleasing far more people than not!

The stage lighting installation was limited by a total 750 amperes of available power. Had the new cold mirror HPL/GKV revolution not happened, the lighting designer would have been in serious trouble; as it is, being able to use the new technology reduced what would otherwise have been 1.2kW units to 600W - a major saving in both load and running cost. There are 102 Strand Lighting SL series of varying beam angles, Cantata Fresnels, Par cans, and CCT floodlights. Of special interest are the Zip Strips and Comet followspots, both supplied by Altman. The Zips allow one to light a backcloth from as close as half a metre away.

There are 24 Chroma-Q colour scrollers, while the moving light element consists of eight Martin MAC 250+ units. Control of both the intelligents and the 96 Zero 88 dimmers is through a Strand 520i desk and the venue includes both DMX and scroller tie lines throughout. Dimmers are connected through a hot patch to some 200 outlets around the theatre. The heavy rains of last summer caused construction delays and the major installers - Prosound and Electrosonic SA - had their start dates changed time and time again. In the end, both installations went ahead painlessly, and President Thabo Mbeki opened the theatre on May 11th with African Footprint’s world premiere.

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