14 Jul 2014

The Eternity Playhouse’s Invisible Grid

When Darlinghurst Theatre Company, The City of Sydney and architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer set about to renovate and repurpose Darlinghurst’s Burton St Tabernacle as ‘The Eternity Playhouse’, there were always going to be a lot of technical and physical challenges. The building was originally constructed as a Baptist church in 1887, and now had to be adapted to run lights, sound, power and flybars, as well as accommodate clear sightlines for the audience.

With the Tabernacle’s heritage came incredible beauty and workmanship, including the amazing decorative timber ceiling. Intricately worked and carved, the timber inlays are original to the Tabernacle and are a masterpiece of an almost lost art. Beautifully restored, they are a highlight of a visit to the theatre. But how do you run a functional lighting rig and grid without blocking the view of the ceiling?

Working with Darlinghurst Theatre Co, Jands Staging had an out-of-the-box solution – a see-through grid. Slingco, a cabling and rigging company headquartered in the UK, make a product called Cablenet; a tension wire grid platform that Jands used to create a see-through ‘virtual ceiling’. Installed above the audience’s head, Cablenet carries the load of both lighting and technicians with complete safety, all without compromising the LD’s vision or the audience’s enjoyment of the heritage ceiling.

“The grid extends from the back of the theatre to halfway onto the stage” explained Darlinghurst Theatre Co. Associate Producer and Production Manager Liz Jenkins. “It has four lighting bars and patch points around it. It’s a bit scary when you first get on it, but it’s quite fun! It holds a tonne, which is a significant weight loading. It was definitely the right way to go – it really accentuates the ceiling.”

Paul Lewis, Systems Manager at lighting company Barbizon, was tasked with ensuring that Cablenet didn’t degrade the performance of the mainly LED lighting rig. “I came down and tested the fixtures after the grid was commissioned” recalled Paul. “I mainly wanted to see how the ETC Source Four LED Lustr would go through the grid. A lot of the installs Cablenet has been used for have used mainly single source tungsten fixtures, not multi source LED. It was an unknown factor, but it performed.”

While the Cablenet grid provides a broad canvas for rigging and focussing, setting up a show in the small venue calls for design creativity. “At least 50% of the stage is beyond the tension grid and under the flys” explained Paul. “There are six Jands Staging motorised lines above stage. You can’t fly a set piece, but you can hang a drape or lights, so the flybars are utilised quite a bit. The Juliet balconies and boom positions are also utilised really heavily. Because of that we supplied a lot of custom boom brackets to make it a safer and friendlier environment to work in.”

Cablenet has been ensuring both safety and sightlines around the world since 1996, and installations can be found on four continents. Venues as diverse as London’s iconic Camden Roundhouse, home to early Pink Floyd gigs, and the theatre at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art rely on Cablenet as a solution when, height, access or materials are an issue. Jands Staging installed the first Australian Cablenet system in the State Theatre Centre of WA in 2010 and work in close partnership with architects and theatre consultants to support all Cablenet solutions, from initial load calculations and computer modelling through to the design and installation.

**For more information on Slingco range of rigging solutions, visit or contact:

Jands Pty Ltd

Tel:+61 2 9582 0909                                                   

Eternity Theatre Invisible Grid


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