Robe supports Lir Academy Gradfest
Tuesday, 17 November 2020
robe-lir-academy-gradfest-2020Image of a Young Unknown Woman examines violence and revolution (photo: Keith Dixon)
Ireland - A new collaboration between Robe and Dublin’s Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art sees a quantity of Robe moving lights – including T1 Profiles and T1 Fresnels, LEDWash 300 LEDs and ParFect 150s – made available on long term rental, which were used to great effect for Lir’s 2020 Gradfest event.
This featured four back-to-back new productions presented in Lir’s two studio spaces, all lit by students completing their master’s degrees in fine art, for which Gradfest was a final segment requiring completion before they gained their qualifications.
The Lir’s conservatory training for students of theatre, film and television offers a dynamic fusion of creative and technical disciplines.
Lir’s head of lighting Eve D’Alton explained that Gradfest is a stepping-stone that galvanises the skills of the MA students, who work with industry professionals on designing and producing their shows to exceptional standards. It’s also an exacting experience for the final year Stage Management and Technical Theatre students who help crew and facilitate these four diverse productions.
This year the four were Image of a Young Unknown Woman, Elinor Cook’s disturbing examination of violence and revolution; Constellations by Nick Payne which looks at the almost limitless possibilities of life and how the smallest changes can dramatically alter people’s designated courses; Salome, or the Cult of the Clitoris: A Historical Phallusy by Mitchell Polonsky, a devised piece referencing an infamous libel trial following the Independent Theatre’s censored 1918 production of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé; and Wish List by Katherine Soper, a powerful work questioning the worth of human labour and how to tackle life with all the systems stacked against you.
Four very diverse and equally challenging works were presented, fully socially distanced, with all the passion, emotion and power of theatre, drama and potent storytelling in the Lir’s two studio theatres, all of which had to be turned around within the space of six weeks.
The three lighting designers involved were Israel del Barco, Roberto Ventruti and Blue Hanley.
The usual Gradfest procedure includes a week of tech for each show to enable the directors to be as flexible as possible in crafting their work, but ultimately, still a highly pressured timescale.
This flexibility was especially critical this year with the COVID situation – and this was where the additional Robe lights – in particular the T1 Profiles and Fresnels – really made a huge difference to the level and style of shows that could be produced.
The deal to secure the Robe kit for the Lir actually started at the 2019 PLASA expo in London, when Eve and Lir technical director Barry Conway met with Robe UK’s sales director Ian Brown who looks after the Irish Republic territory. They already enjoyed a great relationship with Robe UK, are enthusiastic participants in Robe’s NRG (Next Robe Generation) initiative, plus several students have visited the factory in the Czech Republic which is the epicentre of Robe’s manufacturing operation.
Once the kit was in place at the start of 2021, Robe UK’s field sales support Amy Kerr visited and ran some training workshops which was the first opportunity for students to get hands-on with the new fixtures.
Then Covid-19 hit, the first lockdown was imposed and teaching generally shifted to online as everyone grappled with trying to continue with what was then known as the ‘novel’ coronavirus.
An additional challenge for the three Gradfest lighting designers this year was that they had to start the creative process during lockdown and draw up their first drafts without access to the actual rooms. This is when the value of the product training earlier in the year really helped.
Instead of live audiences, this year the shows were all streamed live instead, so apart from being enjoyed by a real audience, friends and families, agents and casting directors could still view the professionalism and scout the talent of everyone involved.
The production team – including chief LX Darragh Cavanagh – and the students also had to contend with the new and evolving Covid-19 safety protocols.
Eve comments, “I am extremely proud of the hard work that has gone into making our 2020 Gradfest happen. In the most challenging times for our industry, both staff and students have proven that the arts and culture are viable and necessary industry and can be produced safely and to the highest standards.
“Robe has always been a great supporter of young technical talent and having that available throughout the year to our students has definitely helped them attain higher potential and create new and innovative ways of working.”

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