Technology has changed so much in just 50 years. From 1938 until the mid 70’s you needed five arms to change lighting cues. Today, a computerised desk and one finger will do all this and more.
In 1938 it had long been realised that the stage lighting equipment, which had been in use since the Beresford Street theatre was leased in 1933 was by no means as up to date as it might have been and accordingly, £150 was voted to bring the lighting of the stage up to the best modern standards. The latest equipment, as had recently been installed at the Covent Garden Opera House and at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, was used for the first time in the Players 1938 production of “The Rose Without A Thorn”.
The apparatus was supplied and installed by the General Electric Co. Ltd., whose engineers designed the outfit in consultation with the principal officials of the Players, who were fortunate in that they had a prominent member, Mr J G Jackson, BSC, DFH, AMIEE, of the General Electric Co. at hand to advise and assist.
From 1938 until the mid 1970’s the Rep’s stage lighting control remained virtually unchanged – it was controlled from the side of the stage by means of multiple switches and leavers leading to much frantic activity, the use of multiple broom handles and frequently requisitioned extra hands. This situation was hardly ideal as the lighting operator could not clearly see the action on stage and was working in a limited space, shared with off-stage actors (who always get in the way! technician speaking).
In the late 70’s the players purchased a new lighting system which used a small 24 channel, 2 master lighting desk where the operator could pre-set up to 24 stage lights whilst an existing lighting state was up on stage and then change from one to the other by simply pushing one fader. This new system was located in a purpose-built booth, raised on stilts, at the back of the auditorium. The lighting technician could finally see what he was doing.
Over the next 20 years, this system was slowly upgraded, firstly to 36 channels and then to a Green Ginger 40 way, 3 master, 3 group lighting desk providing even further flexibility.
With the move to our purpose-built premises on Leek Road, a new era arrived. Our first computerised lighting desk was purchased and lighting technicians had to learn a whole new way of working.
In the space of just over 50 years, we have gone from needing to be an octopus to pushing a button – the speed of progress?