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Hawthorn supplies Hugh Vanstone and Chris Hirst with Martin LED inventory

Matilda The Musical followed its successful run in London’s West End by embarking on a major international tour, opening in South Africa and presently in Asia Pacific. The Roald Dahl inspired award-winning musical from the Royal Shakespeare Company tells the story of an extraordinary little girl who changes her own destiny.

Associate lighting designer Chris Hirst has been working alongside original LD Hugh Vanstone, and with the latter’s consent, has developed a more LED-centric inventory, scaling down the number of fixtures and making it easier for him, and production technician Fraser Hall to tour with. Much of the inventory, supplied by Hawthorn, is based on Martin by HARMAN moving heads including quantities of Martin MAC Encore Performance CLD, Martin MAC Encore Wash CLD and Martin MAC Aura XB, distributed in the UK by Sound Technology Ltd.

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Hawthorn Business Development Manager, Mark Burnett, said he had long been a fan of Martin fixtures. “We would always tend to see [new product] prototypes and get on board quite early. For this tour we have supplied the MAC Encore CLD versions. They are great units and the quality of the colour mixing is excellent. With the framing shutters it was a no brainer.”

Chris Hirst has been revelling in the more simplified FOH set-up, with the Martin LED-based MAC Encores replacing MAC Vipers on the UK tour. “Fewer fixtures allows for speed and ease of focusing on tour,” he remarks.

The MAC Encore Performance had first been added to Matilda on the UK leg of the tour. “After they proved a successful LED replacement to the Viper we were sufficiently confident to replace our arc lamps with Encores,” confirmed Hirst, “and this included adding the MAC Encore Wash to the show for the first time.

“Both units were a huge success,” he continued. “We have since retrofitted Encores into the original London production, replacing all MAC 700s and VL1000’s with MAC Encore Performance CLD to reduce lamp replacement costs and fan noise.”

He noted that the cold versions had proven an excellent replacement for the Viper Spots and Washes. “Therefore it made sense to stay with the cold versions The CTO is great at achieving warm skin tones we use, while also being able to give us the colour punch we need for the saturated moments. We have a custom colour load of fixed chip colours for an effect used in the show—bumping quickly between slots—and this effect continued to work well in the Encores.”

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On the tour Hirst makes heavy use of the framing shutters, all gobos and a custom animation wheel on the Encores. “We also made use of Martin’s ‘Animotion’ effects in the LED cells,” he explained. “This provided a great softer random strobe type effect, which plays to great effect as Bruce Bogtrotter burps, causing the room to vibrate and quiver. It adds a great level of detail to the lighting.”

As for the MAC Aura XB wash lights, Fraser Hall says they are “certainly brighter and just as reliable as earlier generations,” and Chris Hirst agrees. “I loved them on the Shrek UK tour and they work well on this show. I am impressed with the brightness and the good saturated and pastel colours.” In this production, the Aura XB’s form the side light on the ladders, four ladders per side, and one up stage of the back wall.

Summing up, Chris Hirst says, “Overall the Martin LED fixtures have provided us with a bright, virtually maintenance free rig, which dramatically reduces lamp costs on the tour.“

The strong colours help to create the world of Matilda and support the set design. We were able to achieve good skin tones and strong saturated looks, with enough brightness to pull the cast out of the scenery.”

Finally, Chris Hirst praised Hawthorn, and Mark Burnett in particular. “They provide us with great service and have continued to do so on the road. They were willing to invest in new lighting to allow us to take a (nearly) totally LED rig on this international tour.”

As for Burnett himself, he sees no end to the investment in Martin by HARMAN fixtures as he continues to supply LDs from a hire stock that includes MAC Viper Wash DX and Profiles and Rush PAR 2. “In fact we have also purchased a number of MAC Viper Performance for a major touring musical because the LD wanted an arc source lamp,” he says.

Pictures copyright © GWB Entertainment


  • Matilda the Musical
  • Touring

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