LONDON, UK — A recent theatre project involving 160 primary school children is convincingly demonstrating the power of the arts to inspire young people to greater learning. Into Opera are on a mission to get more people into opera, and their children’s opera and education project offers children a unique introduction to the art form of opera and all that it encompasses. At the heart of this imaginative project lies A King’s Ransom, a children’s opera written by classical composer Patrick Hawes. Supporting this reimagined tale of Robin Hood is a subtle, yet powerful, lighting design by Johanna Town that features a collection of Maverick and Rogue moving fixtures from CHAUVET Professional. Plans are now afoot to develop A King’s Ransom into a national education project, hoping to engage and inspire more children up and down the country, due to the success of its recent premiere.
The set, designed by Michael Pavelka, consisted primarily of a single cloth representing the giant oak tree in Sherwood Forest. Town’s challenge was to invoke night and day in the depths of a forest through intricate changes in lighting. The 28 Maverick fixtures in her rig were key to helping her create this effect. She had six Maverick MK2 Spot, six Maverick MK1 Hybrid and 16 Maverick MK2 Wash units on upstage, FOH and side-stage truss.
“I needed lighting tools that could create the strong imagery of the forest all around, as well as give me flexible and optimum coverage of the staging area,” said Town. “The Maverick Spots were used to help create the feeling of the forest over the whole stage for the village scenes.”
Drawing on the dual 6-position rotating slot and lock gobo wheels of each Maverick fixture, Town was able to create a myriad of patterned and textured light effects that evoked images of Sherwood Forest. “The Mavericks enabled me to create creepy, eerie and busy forest looks to great effect,” commented Town. “What’s more, I loved the great light output and versatility of the Hybrid fixtures. Not only were they very bright, they also allowed me to go from beam to wash with some nice gobo effects.”
Stage Director Genevieve Raghu wanted to immerse the audience in the forest world from the moment they arrived in the auditorium with storytelling taking place on stage, around the audience, in the centre aisle and on the balconies. Town’s design made the audience feel part of the action, while also highlighting the children on stage. Interestingly, the Maverick Spots were also used as Front of House washes to bring out the faces and the colour matching from warm to cool.
“It was really important for the lighting to take the audience through the locations using colour, and at the same time be clearly defining the time of day as the opera travelled through 48 hours,” continued Town. “In this respect, really flexible colour changes were another major advantage of the Mavericks, which allowed me to shift between states of colour as the different groups took over the space.”
The zooming features and fast pan/tilt movements of the Maverick fixtures in her rig helped Town evoke sudden mood changes in the opera. She was also able to use the strobing effects to convey powerful, uncertain emotions when a tree is cut down and crashes to the ground.
Supporting the Maverick fixtures were eight Rogue R2 Wash units. “I chose to have both Maverick and Rogue Washes on the rig, as I really wanted to see how they compared with one another,” commented Town. “Both units worked well together, with both units responding well with perfect colour matching and mixing.”
Thanks to her well-balanced design, Town was able to reduce the overall quantity of lighting, whilst simultaneously providing illumination for all the various scenes depicting a wide range of drama, atmospheres and emotions within the show. As a result, A King’s Ransom has proved as theatrical as it is inspiring, and succeeded in making opera accessible to a new generation of UK school children.