Pieter Toerien's spectacular version of the well-known musical, Jesus Christ Superstar opened this May at Cape Town's, Artscape Opera House to tumultuous applause. This was the latest in a string of smash-hit musicals for which theatre equipment supplier, Gearhouse Splitbeam supplied the Lighting rig. The company offers niche theatre-specific equipment on a long-term rental basis and is fast becoming the "go-to" option for international tours and local shows alike.

Splitbeam's Managing Director, Alistair Kilbee has been involved in theatre for most of his working life. At the heart of the Splitbeam service lies his conviction that Lighting Designers should be able to easily access the latest technology, at what he refers to as "theatre-friendly" pricing. And why not, when South Africa is home to some of the most creative designers around?

Lighting Designer, Denis Hutchinson has worked with Splitbeam previously on Dream Girls and Handful of Keys and was instrumental in getting Splitbeam involved in Jesus Christ Superstar as he felt their Vari*Lite fixtures were exactly what was needed to light the show.

Jesus Christ Superstar uses a full Vari*Lite rig (together with a handful of Source Fours) and Denis has found these fixtures a pleasure to work with. "The VL3500s are really great in a theatrical situation; the shutters are versatile and accurate, giving control which is hard to beat with other units. The VL2500s are also excellent onstage because they are so compact. Superstar doesn't have a particularly full grid, but on big musicals a compact fixture is essential and given how good the optics are, it's just the thing!"

With regard to the Splitbeam service, Denis agrees that it fills a gap that has long been felt by theatre lighting designers. The world-wide trend in commercial theatre is towards leasing rather than buying equipment as it allows for much more show-specific equipment. South Africa has lagged behind however, largely because lighting hire here has always been priced towards short term hire, so that for many of the 'franchise' musicals, it has been cheaper to hire out of London or Sydney than to source gear locally; "which is just silly!"

"With Splitbeam now up and running, we are looking for the first time at a local supplier geared to long term rental and the specific requirements of the theatre market. Now we just have to change the way producers and theatre owners think..." he laughs.

Besides production-specific rentals, there is also potential in long term leases for production house theatres, rather than receiving houses; once it can be proven that it is in everyone's interest to go the rental/lease route rather than outright purchase.

Prior to the Jesus Christ Superstar get-in, Lx Operator, Glenn Duncan and Denis were given an equipped space to complete two days of pre-programming in Johannesburg while the Splitbeam technicians prepared and marked up all equipment to ensure that the team were able to move in and be up and running in good time. "My first experience with Splitbeam on a big show has been totally positive and I hope that we will be able to do more work together in the future", he says.

The feeling is mutual, it seems."Working with Denis is a pleasure," says Alistair "because he is so well organized and knows what he wants from the outset. This is exactly the type of designer that Splitbeam caters for - someone who uses the equipment to its fullest capacity and who is also very conscious of theatre budgets."

"South Africa has plenty of local talent in both the technical and the performance spheres. We believe that our industry is perfectly positioned to become a major player on the world-wide theatre touring circuit. We have always been able to do musicals to the highest standards but we have not had a rental company to supply the correct equipment at the correct price… until now." he concludes.

JC SUPERSTAR closes in CTN on 28th May before moving to Montecasino's Teatro theatre in Johannesburg.

Presented by Pieter Toerien Productions
Directed by Paul Warwick-Griffin
Musical Direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder

Lighting Design Denis Hutchinson

For more information please visit our website

Story by Robyn D'Alessandro, Photos courtesy Pieter Toerien Productions.

Jun 8, 2011

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