Cinderella at the Malvern Festival Theatre (photo: Lisa Roberts)
UK - Panto is a British performance genre that combines wit, slapstick comedy, double entendres, magic, fantasy and usually a bit of politics tossed together with the musical hits of the year.
“We like happy endings,” commented lighting designer Andy Webb, which is why he specified Robe for two key shows for producers UK Productions (UKP), Snow White & The Seven Dwarves at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre in Buckinghamshire directed by Chris Wilkins-Nelson, and Cinderella directed by Benji Sperring, staged at the Malvern Festival Theatre in Wiltshire, both produced by Martin Dodds.
The 1,200-capacity Waterside Theatre is the larger venue in terms of both stage and audience sizes, and here Andy utilised 60 x Robe luminaires - a mix of T1 Profiles, Spiiders, MegaPointes, BMFL WashBeams, LEDBeam 150s, Cyc FX8s and ParFect 100s, together with elements of the in-house generic rig.
The 850-seat Festival Theatre - now known as Malvern Theatres has been a provincial arts centre since 1885, and here Andy specified 45 x Robe fixtures which were a combination of MegaPointes, ParFect 100s and 150s, DL4S Spots, LEDWash 300s, plus some of the regular house conventionals.
Andy programmed the shows using Avolites Tiger Touch II consoles, each featuring approximately 300 cues. The additional production lighting equipment, including all the Robe products, was supplied by rental specialist, CEG. Shaun Ellis was Andy’s LX1 on both productions, and he also drew up all the follow spot plots.
As always, time was the biggest challenge in lighting both shows to the standard of excellence which Andy always shoots for.
The lighting get ins were on Sundays for show openings on the following Thursday. Andy received some set reference photos during construction and while the assorted drop cloths were being printed and painted, leaving three frantic days onstage to make it all happen.
“Due to the number of scenes and the hectic pace of the shows and of panto in general, the workflow is always fast and furious,” Andy explains, so having familiar fixtures is a must. This allows him to go into a show he’s essentially not seen and emerge three days and countless button presses later, with a colourful mix of all the atmospheric elements needed to help the crazy-foam pies fly.
“I can’t get more time, but having the right tools enables me to work quickly, more efficiently and achieve more in a short timeframe.”
Andy thinks the Robe gobo selection is always a “lifesaver” in these circumstances, especially when creating aerial effects and texturing, and particularly in the MegaPointes. “The emphasis on having excellent gobo sets in T1s and MegaPointes means that we usually don’t need any custom Gobos,” he said.
The overhead fixtures for both shows were spread out over six LX bars with a spot-wash-spot--wash configuration to achieve maximum coverage, and a fan of MegaPointes for specials and pick-ups.
In both venues, Spiiders (Aylesbury) or ParFects (Malvern) were rigged on the apron truss or in the side positions, utilised as front kickers and side fill. The LED chips in the Spiiders, LEDBeams and ParFects are identical which assists with continuity and programming.
Andy and Shaun stayed with each of the shows for the first three days of their runs, with Aylesbury clocking up an impressive 57 shows over four weeks, entertaining around 50,000 people, and Malvern delivering 38 performances to approximately 30,000 people across three weeks, reinforcing the enduring popularity of panto for everyone.

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