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Ayrton Diablo for Dick Whittington at the National Theatre

Ayrton Diablo for Dick Whittington at the National Theatre

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced UK theatres to close in December 2020, the National Theatre’s pantomime, Dick Whittington, at the Olivier Theatre had only previewed four times. The performance on the 15 December was filmed and shared on YouTube over the Christmas holiday period with the National Theatre looking to reach as wide an audience as possible despite the closure.


The Olivier Theatre had already been re-configured in-the-round before the pantomime took place, reducing its capacity to approximately 500. A new temporary lighting rig, designed by lighting designer and NT lighting associate Paule Constable, was installed which stretches over half of the stage and out into the auditorium.


“With the whole rig shifted out half way into the auditorium, and the trim height reduced from 30 m to 8.5 m, all our natural followspot positions were blocked out”, says Jack Williams, lighting supervisor for the Olivier. “And with half the rig suspended temporarily front of house, we were restricted in the number of lights we could hang on the truss due to reduced weight limits and hanging points. We therefore needed something small and lightweight which could integrate into the rig as usable followspots.”


Four Ayrton Diablo LED profile fixtures were installed as permanent components of the basic rig to act as followspots. These are hung centrally and work in tandem with a ‘real’ followspot operator through a Robert Juliat SpotMe tracking system. The Diablos hang 1 m below the main rig giving clear sightlines across the entire performance area, and are side mounted to allow full pan.


The Olivier’s complement of Diablo fixtures was part of an investment of six which the National Theatre added to its inventory before the pandemic struck. They were chosen after extensive testing and comparisons arranged by Ayrton’s exclusive UK distributor, Ambersphere Solutions.


(Photos: The Other Richard)




Ayrton Diablo for Dick Whittington at the National TheatreAyrton Diablo for Dick Whittington at the National Theatre

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