Elf opened at London’s Dominion Theatre on 15 November for a limited eight-week run (photo: Matt Crockett)
UK - The festive period is a busy time for the riggers at Unusual. The team certainly has its hands full with Christmas lights being hung in Regent St, more than 20 pantomimes taking place across the UK and a big Christmas musical on the West End.
Based on the Hollywood hit movie starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, Elf opened at London’s Dominion Theatre on 15 November for a limited eight-week run, with production manager Stuart Tucker bringing the Unusual team on board to handle the rigging requirements.
Stuart commented: “This is quite an involved show from a rigging perspective as the venue is actually quite tight for space. With everything from drift ladder beams off fly bars for lighting and rigging for flying pieces overhead to Kinesys, storage hoists, front of house trusses for snow machines, etc.”
With drawings completed by Unusual’s Emily Egleton and onsite rigging managed by Tom Berry and Dave Curtis, load in was relatively straightforward, though not without some challenges as Stuart explained; “The set was actually purchased off the former producers of the show and is actually quite old fashioned, heavy and on the large side.
“Getting it in through a small door takes time, and once in, it takes up a lot of space. It was built nearly 10 years ago and of course, if it was built again today it would be very different and nowhere near as heavy. Getting Santa’s sleigh in and out takes time – never underestimate the complexities of loading a large west end show lin in five days.”
Stuart’s rock & roll background certainly helped with effectively managing the load in. “I decided it was easier to get eight riggers in on day one – four front of house and four on stage. This meant that most of the rigging was installed in a day which cleared the stage in preparation for the carpenters to start assembling the set.”
The Unusual team returned following the completion of the set build to install a rolling beam for bringing the scenery on and off stage. This could not be done until all the long set pieces had been installed. The foam snow machines form an essential and magical element to the production, covering the audience in ‘snow’. All the rigging supporting these had to be as discreet as possible. There are also six flown trucks above head height to store scenery. “So much of what Unusual does is invisible but absolutely crucial to a show’s success,” said Stuart.
He concluded: “As ever Unusual did a great job – they truly do provide a service that is second to none and I look forward to continuing my relationship with them. As a production manager, I can sleep at night, knowing it’s all been installed properly – and you can’t put money on that.”

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