The 2024 Adelaide Festival opened with the world premiere of Baleen Moondjan, a contemporary ceremony from creative visionary Stephen Page.

Inspired by a story from Stephen’s grandmother from the Ngugi/Nunukul/Moondjan people of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), Baleen Moondjan celebrates First Nations’ relationships between baleen whales and communities’ totemic systems.

Set amongst giant whale bones on the sandy shores of the Adelaide suburb of Glenelg, the set was designed by Jake Nash and recognises the intertwining relationships between all living creatures and our connection to earth, sky and sea.

“The bones are up to eight meters high and are beautiful,” commented Damien Cooper, lighting designer for the production. “I knew I had to try to keep towers, truss and obvious lighting fixtures away from it to allow the bones to dominate.”

Consequently, Damien aimed to position the lighting as low as possible and key to this was the deployment of Ayrton’s new Domino Wash fixtures which Damien particularly specified.

“I’m a big fan of the Ayrton fixtures and usually I’m happy to adjust to what the hire company has available at the time,” he said. “Fortunately, our production company was Novatech Creative Event Technology who were looking to purchase the Domino Wash & gained my feedback. It’s always gratifying when a hire company take your advice on a fixture.”

Damien says that brightness was a key factor in his fixture choice and the Domino Wash did not disappoint.

“With this production, I was trying to do a lot with less,” he explained. “There are only 70 fixtures used, including the footlight runs, on a 53 metre wide stage and so the fixture needed to pack a punch. Essentially, the Domino Washes were the sidelight on the dancers and there was nothing else. Normally if we were in a theatre we’d have a lot of profiles and while the lumen count wouldn’t be as dramatic, we’d have a whole overhead structure and backlight structure as well. The dancers were primarily being lit from the side the whole time. We didn’t have any front-of-house towers and no follow spots, it was all done through carefully placed lights and great programming by Harry Clegg.”

Sand was built up to the edge of the stage so that the stage was seen to be sitting flatly on the sand. A trench was dug around the stage into which the twelve Domino Wash, six per side of the stage thrust, were placed a smidgeon below the stage height. They provide some light to the front of the whalebone but primarily they were there to light the cast.

Four more Domino Wash joined the thirty Ayrton Perseo located behind the whale bones to backlight the cast. The show starts with 44 gallons of burning or smoking gum leaves and then the eight hazers kick in through which the Ayrton products shine.

“The Domino Wash has a great wide beam angle, going up to 75 degrees, and I was happy with having a shutter system,” added Damien. “Plus they’re waterproofed to IP65 which was obviously very important on this production!”
When choosing his colour spectrum, Damien took advantage of having no colour as a base structure using mainly LEE 200 which is grey-blue and LEE 105 an orange that he bounced back and forth between.

One tower to the side of the stage allowed lighting from a higher point in the form of a dozen Ayrton Domino LT fixtures.

“The Domino LTs were excellent, the furthest shot they were doing was 65 metres and I had six of them hitting Elaine as she walked out into the ocean” remarked Damien. “It was like a corridor of light shooting hundreds of metres into the water.”

Sand and the elements were the enemy of the production with sand pushing up on to side lighting position one day. However, the Dominos did not even flinch.

“Fortunately all the lighting was fine,” said Damien. “On opening night the tide came in about a third of the way through the stage area but we had planned for this and the IP65 Dominos and cabling gave us great confidence. However, it kept the audio crew on their toes as the tide made its way near the speakers!”

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