The Addams Family (NSDF Transfer)

DULOG’s The Addams Family was selected as one of 12 shows for the 2016 National Student Drama Festival, as was DULOG’s Kiss Me, Kate. I was the LD for the original runs of both musicals, and had the opportunity to revisit the shows in new venues for NSDF. The Addams Family was performed in the Spa Theatre, Scarborough, which had a slightly larger stage than the Assembly Rooms, and a fairly steep rake. The Spa is beautifully designed, suiting the gothic look of the show perfectly, and was dressed with hundreds of cobwebs to settle the audience into the Addams’ home. There was no orchestra pit, so the band were situated in one of the galleries, but this meant that we could really make use of low fog (from a JEM Glaciator X-Stream) in the show without affecting the musicians. The director, Charlie Keable, also designed and built the set, and was reworked from the original. Unfortunately we lost the cool two-way mirrors, but these were replaced with some hilarious “family photos”. The flats were wallpapered and dressed with rips, crossbow bolts and cobwebs. Since the stage had no trapdoor, we also gained a crypt door for the ancestors to enter through. This still enabled me to add deep red light and thick haze to the ancestors’ entrance.

Lighting-wise, the onstage rig was similar in terms of hanging positions, but some fixture substitutions were made. 1K Selecon Rama fresnels were the main source of light, an upgrade from the original 650W Selecon Acclaim fresnels, and the extra wattage helped stretch the rig to the slightly larger stage. The L116 I wanted for sidelighting wasn’t available, so we improvised with a combination of 1x L117 and 2x L728, which worked despite smoking a bit! The 2 backlighting VK3010 LED pars were replaced with 2 MAC 301s and 2 MAC 250 Washes. The MAC 301s worked quite well and had decent colour rendering, although the range of beam angles possible with the zoom was a bit limited. The MAC 250 Washes were pretty useless in this instance, unfortunately. Their fixed beam angle was too narrow to be a useful part of the backlight wash. I mainly used them with their UV filter to add a bit of glow to the ancestors. Given more time, I would have used them more to add backlight specials to the actors delivering solo lines to the audience when isolated. The original “bars” and “leafy break-up” gobos were used, and additionally a steel moon gobo was used for the “onstage” moon projected onto the black. Whilst not as realistic as a glass gobo, the steel one performed better than expected. In hindsight, I probably should have gelled the light too as the moon was used during very blue scenes, which made it look (relatively) very orange. Due to the low grid, the blacks were on swipes and not flown in. The blacks hung in pleats, which wasn’t ideal for the moon, but did not significantly detract from the effect.

The pros booms meant I could add some head-height sidelight to scenes with the ancestors at the front of the stage. I also used a boom to hang the special for Lurch’s “moon” entrance. The original COLORado Batten 72 Tours used for footlights and lighting the flats were replaced with PixelLine 1044s. These had poorer colour rendering since the LEDs were not chip-type, but did have a wider beam angle which was helpful. They also couldn’t strobe to enhance the lightning effect, but since the Martin Atomic 3000 was a much better replacement for the original strobe used it didn’t really matter.  I also had a Robe CycFX 4 at the centre of the row of footlights, which I would have liked to have utilised more, but proved very effective during “Waiting”.

Front of House the main rigging position was the balcony rail running parallel to the stage, which was far more convenient than the perpendicular FOH positions at the Assembly Rooms. The main frontlight came from 8x S4 Juniors in two colours. With the slightly larger stage, and the relatively large throw distance, full size S4s or an extra 4x S4 Juniors would have helped increase the intensity a bit. Replacing 2 of the original COLORado 2 Zoom Tours were a pair of Robe Robin 600E Spots, which worked beautifully for the frontlight specials isolating actors. The other two  original COLORado 2 Zoom Tours were meant to be replaced with a pair of MAC 301s, but one too few had been sent with the hire package. To get a matching pair of lights, I managed to borrow a pair of MAC Viper Wash DXs. I’d wanted to try some movers with internal shutters for a long time, and it was a shame that time limits meant that I couldn’t use these great fixtures to their full potential on this occasion.

I ran the show from a ChamSys MQ60 that we brought with us. The original run was programmed on an ETC Element, and I used ETCnomad as a reference for my original programming. I couldn’t pre-program or pre-patch much of the show, since lots of details couldn’t be confirmed until we arrived at the venue. We also lost a lot of time to the set build, including compensating for the rake. I lost a good 4 hours programming time, so I ended up having to busk a lot of the show for the first night. Luckily, ChamSys desks are designed with live events in mind, so this wasn’t a major problem. I had a bit of programming time before the second performance, so I fixed a few problem cues and finished the programming of Act I. For Act II, due to its slower pace, I was still happy to busk most of it, but I made it easier by copying and tweaking key cues from earlier in the show. Ultimately, I was very happy with the end result, but given more time I could have done a lot more.

The audience really responded well to the show, and we had some good reviews (1, 2, 3, 4) in the Festival’s magazine, Noises Off. The show won a host of awards and commendations, including the Festgoers Award, which was voted for by the audience. DULOG also received a Judges’ Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Festival. The Addams Family is one of the best shows I have ever worked on, with an extremely talented cast and band and a great book and score, and getting to work on it again was an opportunity I jumped at.

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