September 25, 2015
The Mary Wallace Theatre is a small, well-equipped theatre on the Thames in Twickenham. It is the home of the Richmond Shakespeare Society. Last year we were contacted on their behalf by Paul Nicholson, an architect and event lighting designer, who is Technical Group leader at RSS. The theatre’s stage, built more than twenty years ago from two layers of discarded West End gate-leg rostra, was approaching the end of its useful life and the society was contemplating a major overhaul. Paul had to prepare the specification and design and it was to assist him with this that he called us.
Paul met our Phil Sparkes on site and they discussed the options. The key aims were:
- Improve the quality of the surface
- Improve access to the area under the stage both for actors and technicians
- Offer greater versatility for stage design
- Upgrade the offstage area leading into the scene dock
Inevitably, the stage and wing space were irregularly shaped but we devised a plan which took care of every nook and cranny while offering great flexibility. The proposal featured 30 square metres of Metrodeck units centre stage. The surround was in bespoke steel frames and the offstage area in wooden joists to create the largest open area beneath. By working closely with Paul this solution genuinely addressed the needs of the client and the demands of the space.
As these photos show, potential problems caused by the uneven floor were counteracted by a laser-levelled steel frame on which the Metrodeck legs sit. This means every leg is identical and the stage is level. The central photo shows how much of the stage area was successfully filled with the demountable decks, which can operate at different heights or be removed entirely. The bespoke frames were then installed around them and the tops scribed in.
The picture below shows just how smooth the stage now looks from the new front edge to the back walls. We also built a highly practical downstage trough system for footlights etc with removable cross-bars so that larger items can be installed if required. In the narrow confines of the scene dock the robust treads and handrails, which lead up to the stage right area, are demountable so that the crew can get even the largest items onto or under the stage floor we have built.
The installation took place over a dark period in August and September. Despite all his work on the project, when Paul Nicholson came in to see the final results he put it simply: “I was knocked out by it!”