Robe Puts Beauty into The Beast

Robe Spiider LED wash beams - Beauty and The Beast Blackpool, Louise Stickland

At Blackpool Grand in 2018, Lighting Designer Andy Webb specified 81 Robe fixtures for a brand-new version of the classic tale produced by UK Productions for the 2018-19 season.

It’s the fourth consecutive year that Webb has lit the famous UK seaside resort’s panto, which was directed by Damian Sandys.

Webb chose Robe lighting fixtures for several reasons. “I’ve specified and worked with Robe on numerous shows and I know the products really well.” He explained: “There is a great choice of fixtures, their LED light sources are of excellent quality and overall the kit is super reliable”.

He relished the chance to light the pantos, a genre which is seriously fast-paced and offers huge scope for colour, melodrama and fun. Lighting a brand-new production for the first time was also really exciting, and it offered the opportunity to set the ground rules and create some spectacular signature elements.

To give the Beast’s character more gravitas and depth, Webb introduced some proper darkness and foreboding to his castle domain. That darkness was also an imaginative starting point for the lighting to evolve. Lighting was also used for other metaphors – throughout the show, when the Beast slowly fell in love with female protagonist Belle, more lights were introduced to his castle environment transforming it from a dingy, grubby den to a brighter more vivid and alive space.

Webb started with ten Robe DL4S Profiles, eight distributed between LX bars 1 and 3 with the other two rigged at FOH. Eight Robe Spiider LED wash beams were also on LX 1 and 2 that created a big lush wash lighting effect covering the whole stage. On the same rear LX bar were six ParFect 150s and the two Robe LED Strobes which used for lighting effects and were critical to the big fight scene, where they helped the audience to feel every push, shove and punch.

Four Robe LEDBeam 150s on the house bars either side of the pros pointed into the audience for blinder effects and movement cues as with all pantos, audience interactions are fundamental to the genre and the show’s progression.

There was also a Robe LEDWash 300 on both pros’ bars for the low-cut shadow work in the castle scenes and for those featuring The Beast. Offstage Webb used the Robe Spikie flower effects to enhance the storytelling at key moments when the fairy was onstage casting spells and for the Beast’s transformation at the end.

Next, to the pros arch each side was a Robe Pointe – the only intelligent discharge fixtures in the show. These were unleashed for wizardry effects and in particular – in conjunction with three half mirror dishes – what Webb called his magic zap effect where super-fast beams of light zap between them. This was devised to create an effect without using pyro.

All Webb designs include multi-layered and complex cues. There were 312 cues in the show, all of which Webb programmed into an Avo Tiger Touch II console which was being operated by the house LX team for the run of 59 shows.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest challenge was shoehorning the required programming for a West End-style design into three days on site which included Webb doing live updates during the dress rehearsals. Known for his attention to detail, one of his keys to achieving this was to be well prepped and another was using all the Robe kit.