London fringe theatre returned to the capital with a bang, as the first socially distanced and fully COVID-19 compliant live musical production of post-pandemic in England was staged in a specially renovated garden space at The Eagle Pub in Vauxhall. Based on the book and lyrics by Glenn Chandler, Fanny & Stella was directed by Steven Dexter and produced by Peter Bull and Richard Lambert of Lambco Productions, who designed and operated the lighting with a Zero 88 FLX S24 console.
“It was perfect for the job,” enthused Lambert. “The console is portable and fitted easily onto a fold-out table, and just like the essence of the show, it literally popped up. It packs away into a tiny flightcase about the size of a satchel!”
The 40-capacity audience sat under cover around tables that were re-arranged each performance to accommodate guests in their relevant social bubbles as identified in the online booking system, while the stage was in the open air. Originally scheduled to be nine performances, a further 18 were added to meet popular demand.
Lambert specified front lighting to attain the Entertainment National Service Association (ENSA) – nicknamed back in the 1940s as “Every Night Something Awful”) – style of ‘pop-up’ theatre aesthetic desired by the director to set the scene for the piece, which is set in 1871 when Boulton and Park were subjected to a show trial for dressing as women and conspiracy to commit sodomy, as detailed in the rousing opener, Sodomy on The Strand.
With 6pm and 8.30pm performances, lighting made a subtle impact, especially on cloudy days, while for the later ones, the stage lighting combined seamlessly with natural light as dusk fell. The main lighting fixtures comprised six GLP X4 Atom 30W full colour LED luminaires rigged on scaffolding bars above the audience area, alongside outdoor birdies. A Zero 88 portable Betapack provided dimming for the garden spots.
The lights created a face-wash and some keying for the cast who stand on correct ‘marks’ at strategic moments. Additionally, Lambert scattered P-light strings around the garden in the bushes and foliage to augment the general ambience. “It was effectively a one-scene lighting show, carefully balanced for that fusion of stage and natural lighting,” he said. “This ‘naturalistic’ approach to lighting also enabled the highly talented cast to shine without distraction or augmentation.”
Lambert specified the FLX console for the ZerOS software which enabled “quick and intuitive” programming and makes shows highly cross-compatible between consoles. He made the most of the surrounding environment, threading power and DMX cables through plant pots and along trellises in the garden and storing the console multicore in a hanging basket overnight. At the day of each show day, the Garden was re-opened to pub patrons and audience members who wanted to enjoy an al-fresco drink.
The cast stayed distanced whilst onstage, while the audience had temperatures measured on arrival and scanned a QR code to register for track-and-trace before entering the pub where they were taken to their allotted places and received table service for food and drinks.