Sunday, 11 March 2012

using Prosceneium's Copacabana set

I've just finished doing a production of Copacabana with Belper Musical Theatre, and we hired our set from Prosceneium. If you're thinking of doing Copacabana with this set, here's what we found. This will be most useful to you if you have Prosceneium's booklet describing the set - they're very friendly and will happily send it to you if you give them a call.

We took the set in its "reduced" form, meaning that we only had two of the four revolves and we had everything at its minimum height, so the revolves and the platforms around them were 1' from the stage. We intended to use everything as depicted in Prosceneium's plans, but we ended up sending the DS flats back - they are designed to mask the entrance via the platform DS of the revolve itself, but the way our angles worked we didn't need them for masking, because the theatre's masking was sitting just DS of them, and it did make it easier to use that entrance. We angled the whole assemblies slightly more towards the audience than the plans showed; this makes the platforms a bit more usable because people at the front of them don't mask people at the back. The platforms are tight for space, even if the tables on them are the very small ones that Prosceneium supply; you'll need small chairs.

We had rehearsed as if we were going to use the double doors in the revolves, but we ended up leaving them closed all through the show and using the DS entrance instead; similarly, we left the mirror doors next to them closed. The mirrors work really well for changing the look of the set when you turn the revolve. The other change we made to the way the revolves are used was that we used them the opposite way round to the design; we used the palm tree side when we were in Cuba and the blue/silver side when we were anywhere else.

Although we'd rehearsed with the steps marked out on the floor, the height of the US rostrum still took a bit of adjusting to. The get-off treads are slightly different from what the plans show, meaning that the rostrum can't go as close to the cyc (or to the cloths between it and the cyc) as you think. Be prepared to lose a few inches - these are crucial inches if, like us, you need the space between the rostrum and the back of the revolve assemblies to get trucks through.

The lamp-post / bench truck looked very good although it is quite a big lamp-post for a small stage. The shower truck is pretty big but only just over 2m high total: we were worried about getting it on and off because we had to clear it under a 2.1m bar but we were fine. The shower screen itself is more transparent than we thought it was going to be; only the most exhibitionist of Lolas would want to actually be naked behind it. We ended up not using the keyboard truck because we had nothing on it but the keyboard so it was easier just to carry it on and off.

The bed is a glorious piece of scenery, absolutely fabulous-looking, but it is absolutely huge so it needs several people to move it. Our director was worried about how far US it has to sit (it has to go right back wherever the treads of to the rostrum are) but when we got into the theatre it looked fine.

In a small theatre, we had no flying facilities so we had to lose everything that was supposed to be flown and couldn't be fixed to work any other way. We didn't use any of the rope strung flats, or the palm trees, or the Copa outside sign, or the big Copa and Trop signs, or the two flats that sit at the sides of the El Bravo front cloth. The Copa and Trop signs are beautiful but huge and heavy; we looked at ways to use them without being able to fly them properly, but ended up using projections of them onto the proscenium arch instead. If you don't have flying facilities you need to plan to do without those two signs; email me if you're hiring the set and you'd like a copy of the photographs of them that we projected. We picked the cloths we needed and swiped them on tracks instead of flying.

The cloths, insofar as we used them, were very nice. The gauze works very well and is opaque enough not to need any backing so long as you light it carefully and don't clatter around immediately behind it, but goes nicely transparent when you put light behind it. The Havana gauze at the back, with the palm trees on, looked good although we didn't really use it as intended; we didn't have room to get any light to it from behind, because it was right up to the cyc. The two El Bravo cloths are fantastic: the front one really is two completely separate cloths so if you have limited room available (about 14'6" height and about 7.1 pros width in our case) you'll probably want to lose one of them. We just used the SL one, with the skull and crossbones on. We had planned to use the blue glitter slashes but decided in the end they weren't worth the trouble for the one scene they would get into, given that we had the gauze available as a neutral cloth at the front of the stage.

Our biggest problem was that not everything was in a good enough condition to be usable as it was sent to us. One of the piano backs was missing completely, which Prosceneium dealt with very well by sending a replacement down, but it would still have been nice to have it all along, and several pieces were distinctly tatty and needed painting. We repainted both of the pianos and almost the whole shower truck; fortunately, we had enough time and a skilled artist, but if we hadn't then those things would have let the look of the show down. The service from Prosceneium was excellent: Gary was very helpful on the phone in the run-up to the show, so we had no really major surprises, the drivers were prompt and helpful, and when we did have the problem with the piano back they were perfectly good about solving it.

If you're thinking about using this set but aren't committed to it yet, the thing to think about is whether you need something this big. The more space you have, and the more your director and choreographer are prepared to think about the set as they put the show together, the more you'll get out of it. If you just want to direct the show in a big room and then drop some scenery in behind it, you might save a few quid by going to Scenic Projects, who are also very helpful and whose stuff is perfectly nice; if you're really going for the wow factor, I don't think you'll do better than Prosceneium's set.

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