Behind the scenes of Lancaster park show

The Dukes 'tech' team with chief technician Brent Lees on the left. Picture by Darren Andrews.
The Dukes 'tech' team with chief technician Brent Lees on the left. Picture by Darren Andrews.
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Once The Dukes technical team are lighting up the trees and laying cables along the pathways, it a sure sign that the outdoor walkabout season is on its way.

And that’s been happening recently as rehearsals begin for Treasure Island which opens on July 4 in Williamson Park.

Among the intrepid technicians who ensure all scenes are beautifully lit and that every actor can be heard is chief technician and lighting designer, Brent Lees, working on his 25th park show season.

Brent’s first outdoor productions in 1992 were Taming of the Shrew and the Wizard of Oz.

“We were still trying things out in those days,” said Brent.

“We used to put theatre lights up in the trees and run cables to them every night and there were no such things as dimmers.”

Now, the process is much more streamlined though the team still rely on a 50-year-old milk float to house the sound and lighting control panel.

It covers more than 200 miles around the park each year.

Brent’s planning for each outdoor production begins in December with final set designs agreed in March.

Once all the equipment is unloaded, preparations can begin in earnest though at the same time, Brent’s team also light any shows still inhouse and project all the films which continue during the summer.

By June, visitors to the park should see the techies laying the power cables, not only for the show but also to help the workshop crew make part of the set on site.

Although creating beautiful lighting effects is Brent’s team speciality, they also need to ensure the entire route is lit well enough for the audience.

Guaranteeing that the sound works is also another challenge in a show performed at multiple locations.

And an ever-present challenge is the weather as electricity and rain don’t mix!

During tech week before the show opens, it’s not unusual to see Brent’s team on site from 9am-midnight every day.

It’s a job which takes stamina but has rewarding results.

“I really loved working on The Hobbit last year,” said Brent.

“It was a tremendous show, the weather was good, there was a set piece in every scene and the audience feedback was great.”

Treasure Island opens on July 4 and runs until August 12.

Director, Joe Sumsion said: “Treasure Island is a fantastic story and our version will offer an amazing journey. I think people love the idea of adventure on the high seas and, for us, theatrically, there’s lots of exciting potential.”T

For tickets ring 01524 598500 or www.dukes-lancaster.org.