Clay Paky Sharpys bring down King Kong

Posted on Thursday, August 8th, 2013

After five years of planning and over five months of rehearsals, King Kong opened in June at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre. This multimillion dollar production, produced by Global Creatures, is wildly ambitious and theatrically daring and scales special-effects heights. The set and backdrop are primarily a dynamic mix of lighting and video effects.

Some of the most striking scenes, such as when Ann is offered as a sacrifice to Kong and also when Kong is shot down from the Empire State Building, rely on ingenious use of forty-six Clay Paky Sharpys.

” Everyone is using Sharpys in the same way but lighting designer Peter Mumford uses them in a completely new way with the big mesh and tangled grid looks which Kong comes through,” remarked Ken Roach, production electrician. “From a technical point of view the Sharpys are great and very bright.”

To achieve what is almost a scenic element of meshed light beams, the Sharpys are positioned on booms either side of the stage, rigged on their side on Tri truss. Sixteen Sharpys per side perform a very specific function throughout the show with their narrow beams not only creating grid effects across the stage but also simulating gun fire.

“They do that very well and are reliable fixtures,” commented Ben Meadows, lighting crew chief on the show. “The grid effect is used in the opening number where programmer Victoria Brennan created a 3D grid using a red Styrofoam ball that we would hold at 1.5 metres, 3 metres, 4.5 metres and six metres with every Sharpy focused onto that one spot in the air. In that opening number every Sharpy on the booms in concentrated onto one spot stage left and it’s a really good effect that looks amazing.”

The Sharpys are also used to create a ‘lightweb’ whereby smoke descends from the proscenium for Kong’s first entrance when Ann is sacrificed; basically a web of light is created within the smoke curtain.

“Other than that they are mainly used to simulate gunfire for which they are brilliant,” added Ben. “We also have fourteen Sharpys recessed into forestage with a grill above them and they also assist in making the lightweb as they are able to punch through the aluminium grill.”

In some scenes, seven Art Deco inspired footlight covers flip up at the front of the stage and under four of them there are Sharpys to simulate a footlight effect which they are able to do due to their narrow beam.

“It creates a really nice, soft and even footlight effect whilst only having four units,” added Ben. “They’re also great for this because they are tiny and fit into the small space.”

Peter Mumford also chose to use thirty-nine Clay Paky Alpha Profile 700 fixtures which circle the gantry and were chosen partially because of their small size.

“With 240 moving lights in the rig, I have to try to make sure everything can do as much as possible and is not restricted by space, set or masking,” said Peter. “I like the Alpha Profiles very, very much. They are very versatile and dynamic in terms of what they can do.”

The Alpha Profiles supply the back and side light for the show including gobo projection and aerial effects.

“Again, the Alphas are reliable and a good fit with the saturated nature of this show,” said Ben.