Total Production


7 March 2008

(Hackney) - Through dealer White Light, lighting manufacturer ETC has installed lighting at London's Arcola Theatre in Hackney. The installation has been designed to keep the show's peak power consumption below 4.5kW.

And the reason why they had to do that was because the venue has recently had a hydrogen fuel cell installed, as part of its bid to become the world’s first carbon neutral theatre.

ETC’s technical director Adam Bennette, who happens to live just a couple of streets from the theatre, assisted with the installation, which includes nine 375W ETC Source Fours and a SmartFade ML control desk – which is also able to control the LED and fluorescent lighting on the show. “I have a pet hate of West End shows which are over lit and can even end up dazzling the audience,” explains Adam, “so it was nice to be able to work on a show in which we had to make the lighting work really effectively.

“There is still no alternative to tungsten lighting for getting the right skin tones for actors on stage, but LED and fluorescent works well for wash and effects and makes a little power go a long way. Because you’ll never get all the lighting on at the same time, the show uses no more power than a three-bar electric fire.”

Source Fours were designed from the outset with efficiency in mind: the high performance lamp and a dichroic ellipsoidal reflector push more light out of the front and heat out of the back. This means a 375W Source Four is as bright as competitor luminaires of 500W or more.

Dr Ben Todd, executive director at the Arcola Theatre, who spent 10 years studying alternative technologies, including obtaining a PhD in fuel cells, before moving into the theatre, says: “The motivation for using this technology is to demonstrate that theatres can light shows on a budget. The cell, while not carbon neutral, proves the technology works. It also gives us a power limit; we’ve got a very real understanding of how much power is being consumed. That’s a far greater motivator than simply giving a designer an artificial limit.

“Lighting is one of the things that people get very excited about in the theatre, and although it’s not the most significant aspect of making theatres sustainable – looking at how the audience gets to the theatre, and at administration, such as paper consumed in the office and for programmes would be far better – it nevertheless captures the public’s imagination. With lighting being a huge consumer of electrical energy overall, theatre can be used as a demonstration. By employing exciting lighting that uses very little power at the theatre, we can prove that efficient lighting can be done at home or at work without too much effort.”

The first show to be powered by the fuel cell is Simple8’s The Living Unknown Soldier, produced by Strawberry Vale Productions, and the environmental impact of all aspects of the production have been minimised, including set construction, marketing, company travel and show lighting. The production’s environmental footprint will be evaluated by leading sustainability advisers Global Action Plan and the lessons learned published for the benefit of other practitioners.


Related Articles