A Kinesys automation system with Vector control is a key player in the cutting edge production of Green Day’s “American Idiot” being staged in Copenhagen at Den Grå Hal (The Grey Hall).
Benjamin La Cour’s acclaimed raw, stark scenography features three large scenic ‘slabs’ of concrete which lift, tilt and elevate to change the shape and architecture of the stage throughout the performance. They form a floor, a ceiling and several other shapes and spaces as the punky attitudinal sung-through action unfolds.
In terms of visuality, these three set pieces fundamentally define the look and feel of the piece directed and choreographed by Tim Zimmerman.
The three slabs each measure 8 x 4 metres and are suspended by four half-tonne Liftket vari-speed hoists fitted with Kinesys Elevation 1+ drives – capable of running up to 24 metres-a-minute. Each piece weighs around 900 Kgs and is picked up from the four points located about a metre from either end.
The undersides of the slabs are graduated, mirroring the shape of the stage below, with which the undersides ‘mate’ when in the down position.
The Kinesys system is being supplied to the production by Riggingworks Sweden (RWS) from Stockholm, run by John ‘Jonnymac’ McDonough, and is being operated on site by Roger Smissen.
The 12 dynamic points are being monitored via a Kinesys LibraCELL / LibraPRO system, together with the 6 static points that are partly suspending the production mother grid on Lodestar D8 Motors.
The grid was installed into the venue to enable the creative team to leverage every possible centimetre of headroom and available space in the historic venue, which dates back to 1891 and features a full original wooden frame superstructure.
Roger is a big fan of Kinesys and specs the brand for many projects, “It’s incredibly powerful, flexible and accurate which is essential for a show like this where precision and detail are vital to the storytelling”.
The main challenges of the installation have included fitting the ambitious and awesome looking design into the space.
The mother grid comprises two upstage / downstage trusses each suspended by two 1-tonne D8 motors plus a dead-hung point in the middle. All six are fitted with LibraCELLs.
The upstage edges of the grid are also landed on a ground-supported scaffolding structure serving as the band platform … gaining the last additional elements of weight loading needed to support the upstage lighting trusses.
The grid is fitted tight to the roof-space – which curves elegantly with the contours of the room – with the motor chains run in almost to their full length.
Two cross-stage trusses rest on top of the mother grid, each supporting six of the 12 Kinesys Liftket (moving) motor points. The last one on each side is cantilevered on the offstage edge of the mother-grid to gain maximum height as the roof starts to slope downwards.
The LibraCELL information all feeds into the PDU and then into the Vector computer, so Roger can quickly and easily check and keep an eye on the state of the system there, as well as observing it on the dedicated LibraWATCH app.
The LibraWATCH app also shows the dynamic loading and gives minimum / maximum readings for the weight on each point across the whole show.
Roger recalls how he spent four hours one night suspended from the roof sandwiching an extra piece of truss in between the mother-grid and the downstage Kinesys truss cross section … all to get an extra 500mm of height!
It’s an extra bit of attention to detail which he is very proud to announce “paid off nicely”.
The stage and the height of the set pieces bring the bottom surface up to 2 metres off the venue floor, so between that and the low ceiling the team managed to get 5.4 metres of travel on the front end of the slabs and 4.9 metres on the back …. Just enough to clear them below the optimum desired height.
The visual effect is enough to be able to raise the three slabs to the top of the skeletal aluminium set walls … becoming a ceiling!
Before moving into Den Grå Hal, the complete rig was set up in a test venue so everyone involved could see how the automation could work as an aesthetic vehicle for the production – a hard-hitting, no compromising commentary on individuality, dreams, aspirations and realities!
Benjamin La Cour – who also created the lighting design with Sune Verdier – Tim Zimmerman and Roger experimented with numerous different moves, positons and transitions during this technical period and refined the action with a series of cool moves that flow with the choreography and rhythm of the performance. There are over 40 cues in the Vector with multiple changes in many scenes.
This was an exciting way to work explained Roger, “Most productions will know exactly how they want to use an automated system at the outset, but this was far more evolutionary and rewarding”. It involved a lot of rehearsal time, some serious creativity and a bit of clever programming from Roger.
He mentions one scene in particular where they emulate the effect of the slabs falling forwards onto the stage one at a time with two actors walking underneath and dramatic music blasting out. Tim, the two performers and Roger all had to be very confident of each other and their abilities not just to replicate the move each time, but to ensure it was achieved completely safely!”
Building that confidence is all part of developing a great working relationship.
Kinesys was initially proposed as a solution for this production by Roger who was brought on-board by production manager Rasmus Haar – they previously worked together on ‘We Will Rock You’ in Copenhagen earlier in the year. Kinesys is Roger’s go-to automation choice, and he in turn asked RWS to supply the kit.
RWS was established by Jonnymac in 2007 and has built up an excellent reputation as a rigging specialist and for solving rigging challenges imaginatively, correctly to the highest standards, and has invested substantially in Kinesys products over the years.
He comments generally on Kinesys, “The products are reliable and easy to use, the customer / technical service is fantastic and the brand is constantly moving forward and breaking new ground”.