De Tocht is currently scheduled to run until the end of April 2024 (photo: Joris van Bennekom)
The Netherlands - De Tocht is a new ice-based musical production staged in the purpose-built 1475-capacity Friso Theatrein Leeuwarden. Directed by Eddy Habbema and choreographed by Marc Forno, the production design was created by Luc Peumans, artistic director of Painting with Light (PWL), whose brief encompassed lighting, video and scenography, an ambitious collage of visual disciplines to capture all the skating action presented in “spectacular” style.
Luc utilised over 200 Robe moving lights for the show including 120 Esprites, 83 LEDBeam 350s, 16 T2 Profiles and 13 iFortes running on a remote follow spot system, supplied to the production by RentAll.
The Dutch-language De Tocht story follows five former skating friends on their adventures skating the Elfstedentocht - an 11-city, 200 km long-distance tour on natural ice over rivers and canals in the Netherlands, which is both a speed skating competition with 300 contestants and a leisure tour with around 16,000 skaters at the start. The last time it was run was in 1997.
Luc worked closely with set designer Jo Segers. He had initially started discussing the show around five years ago with figure skater Madelène Van Beuzekom who he knew through past Holiday on Ice productions, and who was one of the instigators of the De Tocht concept. The show was postponed twice due to Covid before finally being premiered in October this year to outstanding reviews.
The staging features a 60m-wide by 6m-deep bespoke revolving ice track weighing 140 tons, offering up - with the stage area included - 2000sq.m of ice. The ice revolve was built by creative engineering specialist, Mannen van Staal from Leeuwarden and a seating tribune sits in the middle of this innovative staging concept, offering 270-degree viewing of a stage at one end.
The stage is at one end of the venue, with a 52m-wide by 7.2m-high LED screen in front which splits open in four sections that track horizontally to reveal the stage behind. These sections move into different configurations to support the action happening on the revolve.
At the back of the stage is another screen, this one measuring 4m wide and 8m high, so with the front screen open and two sections flanking each side of the stage, the total screen area spans an impressive 93m.
This presents an 18000-pixel wide vista for the audience and delivers the impressionist-inspired digital scenery and backdrops that the PWL team has devised for the project.
To stand out in this massive LED environment, Luc needed super bright and clearly defined fixtures. So, he was delighted to be able to utilise all the Robe elements and the Esprites in particular, which are the backbone of the lighting scheme.
The front half of the revolve is all performance space while the 180 degrees behind the seating tribune comprises backstage and technical areas. A feat of engineering in its own right, in conjunction with smart video content, the revolve was vital for narrative details like the impression of speed and motion. It also enabled props to be seamlessly moved into and out of the performance space.
While the show design was originally planned to have projections - the newest ‘dark black’ screens were not yet available in 2018 - so after some wrangling, it was decided to go with LED screens supplied by Faber Audiovisuals.
As well as projecting onto the ice, with the addition of four custom gobos designed by PWL, the Esprites add texturing to the ice to make it appear more natural and match effortlessly with the video content. These fixtures also double up as front, top and back light. “They are used in a proper multifunctional context,” noted Luc.
They are paired with the LEDBeam 350s which are used in both spot and wash mode, and to produce most of the general stage washes. Luc likes their small size, serious punch, and general usefulness - “they are such handy little fixtures.”
Four side ladders each side of the stage provide boom positions, which are rigged with more LEDBeam 350s and T2 Profiles.
Each boom ladder has 2 x T2s and a pair of LEDBeam 350s plus a smoke machine and fan to boost the atmosphere. Luc highlights that ‘active smoke management’ plays an important role in the overall design.
With just shy of 400 luminaires in the main lighting rig and the large quantities of LED, key lighting and follow spotting were critical, so he chose to work with 13 x Robe iForte FollowSpots rigged above the seating tribune, operated via a remote hybrid manual / automated system.
Thirty-five other fixtures were also connected to the following system which is triggered either automatically via trackers worn by the cast or undertaken manually by two remote operators.
Lighting was programmed on a grandMA3 console by PWL’s Stijn Vanholzaets and Matthijs van Hulsentop during the technical and rehearsal sessions. Niels Huybrechts was the associate LD. The media servers were programmed by Toon Raskin, and the remote follow system was maintained by Rik van de Weerthof.
“There was a lot of teamwork involved both internally and externally and it was great to collaborate as always - it’s the best way to work!” stated Luc. “I think we all enjoyed being a] part of staging such a groundbreaking and entertaining performance which our audiences are loving.”

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