Robe enters into more panto madness
Tuesday, 31 January 2023
robe-beauty-and-the-beastBeauty & The Beast at the Festival Theatre in Malvern (photo: Shaun Ellis)
UK - The Christmas holidays ignited the zany and uniquely British performance phenomenon of pantomime which came to theatre stages up and down the country. This year, lighting designer Andy Webb was asked to design two high-profile panto shows – Aladdin at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury and Beauty and The Beast at the Festival Theatre in Malvern, both for UK Productions (UKP).
Andy chose a selection of Robe moving and LED luminaires to help bring the vibrant, trippy craziness of the genre to life.
“Rule number one in panto lighting is keeping up with the fast-and-furious pace of the action whilst informing the narrative and captivating the audience’s attention,” he explained. Audience participation is a major aspect of any panto production.
All of this means that lighting must be highly adaptable and multi-functional, as the LD must be thinking constantly on multiple levels and able to change at the drop of a proverbial hat!
In the last decade, Andy has been among the trailblazers advocating the use of LED and moving light sources in panto. He has dipped extensively into the various Robe product ranges, and lit several seasons in Blackpool and other cities, known for his fresh and enthusiastic approach.
The theatres in Aylesbury and Malvern are very different in size and shape, and to facilitate the tight programming schedule, Andy chose primary lighting fixtures which would work in both contexts and be scalable to fit the two venues, with Robe Spiiders and Esprites as the main workhorses.
Five MegaPointes were the primary effects lights on both shows, but apart from these, the other Robe fixtures were all LED, and these were combined with luminaires from the house rigs of both venues.
With copious scope for magic lanterning, Andy also had the good fortune to light the 1200-seater Waterside Theatre’s 2021 panto season, so was familiar with the space and the house crew which was a big advantage.
For Aladdin He made full use of all seven available LX bars distributing five Robe Esprites and six Spiider LED washes on LX 1 and 2 to provide all the main over-stage looks.
These seven bars were part of a grid of 53 bars, with all the rest utilised for hanging cloths and scenery pieces apart from two.
The versatility of MegaPointes was needed for all the flying carpet scenes and to create the massive aerial and big rotational lighting looks integral to creating the magic of this important illusion.
Eleven LEDBeam 150s on LX bars 4 and 6 were deployed for mid-stage specials. These bars flew in and out and were trimmed at different heights throughout the performance and were vital to the lighting of the sumptuous musical ‘production numbers’.
Andy’s design used eight Robe ColorSpot 700E ATs, four on a split bar straddling the palace wall set piece, with the other four on the same pros arch drop down ladders as the LEDBeam 150s, where their main task was skimming and texturing the side cloths.
Andy’s FOH rig at Aylesbury included Robe ParFects which added fill where needed from their advanced bar positions, together with an additional pair of Esprites on the circle front.
On LX2 he deployed eight CycFX8 moving LED battens rigged at different trim heights for fanning out into the auditorium and creating columns and shafts of light that were fundamental to lighting the cave scene, where he wanted a specific ‘runway’ effect.
A pair of Spiiders on the bottom of the pros ladders punched in at head height along the front stage apron. “The CTO mix was perfect for illuminating people’s faces,” noted Andy, adding that “they could also be used for ‘bonus’ light on some of the scenic cloths.”
Andy operated the nearly 300 lighting cues in the Avolites Tiger Touch II console for the two dress rehearsals himself, before handing over to the Waterside house lighting team for 4-week run.
Fog and haze were also running through the console, and the show was generally SFX heavy with multiple pyro moments to keep the excitement pumping.
To fit the more compact environs of the Malvern Theatre, Andy spec’d three Esprites and four Spiiders, rigged in near identical positions on LX2 as the fixtures in Aylesbury, with another four Esprites and five Spiiders on LX2, picked for the same reasons to cover all bases.
In this production, his upstage MegaPointes were again used to create and enhance the magic and key theatrical moments, like the transformation of the Beast at the start of Act 2. Again, they were used for bold, spectacular aerial work where definition and beams were needed, and for general effects and razzamatazz that dissected the Spiider and ESPRITE stage looks.
Beauty & The Beast featured some striking bleed-through reveals via gauze curtains, a task at which the ESPRITES excelled and “made the process really magical” as they picked out the emerging characters.
All the Robe moving lights and LED fixtures were supplied by Cambridge based CEG who supplied a total of four UKP pantos this season including these two.

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