Some time ago we talked about the best local pantomimes in the UK for 2017. One of the highlights was the Birmingham performance of Peter Pan, starring Coronation Street actor and game show host Bradley Walsh. This show had everything; three stages, a 60 foot wide screen, a 10,000 gallon water wall and a giant animatronic crocodile.
That led us to wonder what other stage designs raised the bar in terms of scale and imagination. That’s why we’ve gathered together some of the most daring stage designs theatre and music has to offer.
An Inspector Calls
Written by Bradford playwright J.B. Priestley, An Inspector Calls was first performed in 1945. The story of a police inspector investigating the death of a young woman has seen several performances since then, as well as some truly inventive set design.
Many contemporary performances of the play use a distinctive ‘doll’s house’ set. The first version of this appeared in 1992; it appears as a small house with skewed inner proportions and walls that swing outwards. At the end of the play the whole house actually collapses, symbolising the utter ruin of the family’s cosy, untroubled way of life.
The U2 Zoo TV Tour
In 2017, Irish rock band U2 faded into the pop culture background a little. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to put on a show!
One of their most influential ones was the Zoo TV Tour, which ran over 1992 and 1993. It toured in America, Europe and Australia, and laid the ground- if Rolling Stone is to be believed- for the likes of Kanye West and Lady Gaga after them.
The stage design for the Zoo TV Tour presented some interesting challenges when it came to the transport for the events. It featured a series of giant video screens; these were designed to reflect a 90s media landscape of numbing, incessant visual exposure, mixing war footage with old sitcoms and even cooking shows. Parts of the stage were so tall they required their own warning lights, and the American leg of the tour required 52 trucks just to transport the equipment.
The Wall Live 2010
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters struck out on his own during this four-year music tour. Featuring a strong anti-war message, the tour travelled through Canada, North America, Europe and Australia before finishing in São Paolo.
Like U2, Waters’ show features a giant video screen; his screen, however, is over 500 feet long and over 80 feet high. The stage also features giant puppets, an inflatable pig (sacrificed at each show) and a colossal wall, built from 1000 cardboard bricks before the start of each performance. Separating the artists from the audience, the eponymous wall is meant to make a powerful statement about the divisions in modern society.
Written by Roy Williams and first performed in 2010, Sucker Punch is a play about racism and tough choices in the 1980s. The play went on to win both the Olivier Award and the Alfred Fagon award. However, its greatest achievement might be its set, which puts a boxing ring onto a theatre stage.
That alone would certainly elevate the play in terms of stage design, but the performance went a step further by surrounding it with other details. With punch bags, sponsors’ ads and even old fight posters festooning the walls, this was a performance that did everything it could to immerse its audience in its era.
Lady Gaga’s Joanne World Tour
If anyone is capable of putting on a show, Lady Gaga certainly is. The stage for her Joanne World Tour (launched and named after her fifth studio album) certainly lives up to that reputation for elaborate, exciting sets.
The stage for the tour actually consists of four separate stages, connected by three ‘flying bridge platforms’, which can also act as projection displays. The main stage uses a series of lifts that allow it to transform into several different configurations. According to Tait, who manufactured the stage, it is the most complex set that Lady Gaga has ever used.
As you can see, live performances offer fertile ground for eccentric, creative performances. But there’s a serious logistical element to these shows as well and that’s where we come in.
We at Stagefreight have plenty of experience in stage transportation. Whether it’s for theatre or music events, we have the experience and know-how to work out the most practical transport solution for your stage design.
Our drivers are responsible for getting your trailers to the right place at the right time, and will make sure you show goes off without a hitch. We can even offer onsite support with lighting choices, and help you put the stage together once all the components have arrived.
For more details, give us a call now on 0113 238 0805.