The Secret River

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Adelaide Festival
The Secret River

‘The Secret River’ – Novatech bring technology to the bush for The Adelaide Festival. 

‘The Secret River’ is a critically acclaimed Sydney Theatre Company production telling the story of the clash between white convict settlers and indigenous Australians in the early days of colonisation. Adapted from Kate Grenville’s book by Andrew Bovell, and directed by Neil Armfield, ‘The Secret River’ has played to sold-out seasons in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. However, none of these runs were as ambitious as the setting chosen for its Adelaide Festival production – the abandoned Anstey Hill Quarry in Tea Tree Gully. Novatech Creative Event Technology helped bring the spectacular setting to life, providing all the lighting, video, and audio infrastructure needed for a complicated theatrical production in an outdoor setting.

“This project threw up many challenges,” said Wesley Hiscock, Senior Project Manager – Lighting, at Novatech. “We had to rig lights and sound on towers in a confined space, there were extremely long cable runs, and big distances between infrastructure such as the bar area and the stage, which we needed to connect via audio and video.”

With the show running February 28 to March 19, Novatech began working on the project in January with a lighting test on-site with the show’s creatives, including lighting designer Mark Howett. “We bought in all the lighting fixtures Mark requested, plus a few more we thought would be great on the job,” Wesley continued. “One of these fixtures was the ProLights LED Solar Wash, which Mark hadn’t seen before. He really liked it, and it made a huge difference in lighting the sheer rock wall of the quarry; he used eight of them and they really picked out the details in the cliff face.”

Six scaffold towers were built, four of which were incorporated into the set. Novatech provided a range of lighting fixtures including Varilite VL4000 Spots, Arri 5000w Fresnels, 20000w Selecon Arena Fresnels, Selecon Pacific 12-18’ 80v Discharge Profiles, Prolights Studio COBs, City Color 2.5kw Floods, QI 500w Floods and Par64s. The system was powered from Avolites ART2000 dimmer/power distribution racks, and the STC provided their own ETC console.

The front-of-house PA consisted of 12 L-Acoustics Kara Line Array elements and four L-Acoustics SB18 subwoofers powered by L-Acoustics LA-RAKs. L-Acoustics 8XTs and 115XT-HiQs were used as stage monitors, and four 5XTs were deployed as fill. Novatech provided a 32 channel Midas Venice mixing desk for foldback, while the STC bought their own DiGiCo SD-9 for front-of-house.

Novatech’s biggest challenge was running the paging and communications systems – video and audio show relay needed to go to the marquee being used as dressing rooms, to the bar and hospitality area, and backstage, meaning some cable runs for this system were 200 metres long. Novatech used Marshall colour and low-light cameras, Lilliput field monitors, Riedel wired and Clear-Com wireless comms, and a combination of RCF, Mackie, and Behringer loudspeakers.

Novatech supplied lighting and audio engineers to assist with the build and bump out,” Wesley concluded. “STC crew ran the performances, and their organisation and communications were excellent throughout. On opening night, I was absolutely blown away with how good the STC had made it look. It was extremely gratifying to be involved in a show where all performances were sold out and the reviews were excellent.