by Cat Strom.
Photos: Troy Constable
Tim Minchin, internationally renowned award-winning musician, comedian, actor, writer, and composer, returned to the Australian stage with his first national tour since 2012.
Entitled BACK, the tour is billed as “Old Songs, New Songs, F*** You Songs”, hinting at a set list of material from all corners of Minchin’s eclectic repertoire.
Lighting designer Cam McKaige started working with Tim ten years ago on his solo tour entitled Ready for This which was followed by two orchestra tours and several one-off shows. This is Tim’s first live tour in seven years after his success with the musical Matilda and various TV projects.
“It’s been a long time between drinks!” laughed Cam, who clearly enjoys working with Tim.
“Tim and I had a meeting in a pub in South Melbourne about six months ago and his main brief was that he wanted something that looked like you can’t hire it off a shelf. He wanted lighting towers and the stage to be well presented.”
Cam designed a set accordingly with brand new red velvet legs, rear drapes, and 12 columns of assorted heights, all of which is beautifully lit. Initially, the audience sees only Tim at his piano, and it stays this way until the fifth song when the kabuki suddenly drops to reveal the stunning stage set.
“The response is fantastic and we enjoy it immensely!” said Cam. “The band reveal is such a surprise to the audience, Tim has asked for nothing to be shown on social media until the tour has finished.”
A central video screen runs IMAG during the show, and either side of that are six Roman columns stepping down in size from 4.5 metres to 2 metres. On top of each column is a Claypaky B-EYE K20; Cam is a master at achieving a wide variety of looks out of a B-EYE!
Cam was using 16 Claypaky Unicos for the first time, describing them as perfect for this job. The Unicos were all in the air over the stage, spaced with the 20 ShowPRO Colliders resulting in just strobes and profiles in the air. Res X purchased 20 ShowPRO Collider Strobes for the tour and Cam describes them as amazing, loving the pixel face of them.
“I’m running the Colliders in Graphics mode which is perfect for this tour,” said Cam. “In Perth I used the GLP JDC-1s but I have to say I’m happier with the Colliders; they’re super-bright, super-smooth and you can’t go wrong.
“It’s nice to have a light that can be used in so many different ways; it can be a wash light or a strobe or can deliver a ‘graphics’ look. They’re fun and it’s always a bonus when you find a light you enjoy using.”
With the Claypaky Unicos, Cam actually specified MAC Vipers but Res X offered him the Unicos and even though Cam wouldn’t normally think of shuttering for an onstage light, he accepted their offer.
“I would normally have them on a front truss if I wanted to shutter off something,” he added. “Having said that, I’ve ended up using the shuttering as a look in one of the songs and I’m enjoying doing so. The Unico is super bright, super smooth and I’d be happy to use them again.”
The bulk of the colour comes from the front truss with 8 Quantum Wash and 5 Martin MAC700s as profiles for the band members. Twelve MAC Auras are on the floor uplighting the columns, with 12 Ayrton MagicBlades also on the floor to uplight the red velvets.
Tim requested that some effects were held back until the end of the show and so Cam used 20 ShowPRO GoldenEye 77 in an interesting manner.
“Originally I was going to run the GoldenEyes around the piano, on their backs facing straight up,” Cam elaborated. “Unfortunately everyone comes to the piano for the acoustic section so that wasn’t possible.
“They’re now run along the lip of the stage with five more in front of the drum riser. They are a really bright fixture, in fact last year I used them on a show with the panels facing outwards and I had to run them at 1%!! This way I utilise their brightness by having them shooting up into the gods.”
One lonely MAC Viper was specified for the custom gobo of Tim for when the audience are taking their seats. This disappears as soon as he takes to the stage, which is why it’s not printed onto the back drop.
Two MDG hazers, one in front of the curtain and one behind provide atmosphere. Some may say that’s a little overkill but there are many moments with just one light on Tim and if the stage isn’t filled with smoke, you lose the impact.
This tour was the first time Cam used an MA Lighting grandMA3 fullsize, with a grandMA3 light for backup.
“Again, I actually specified an MA2 but jumped at the opportunity to have an MA3 as I know it is a product I’ll be seeing a lot in the future,” he said. “It’s in MA2 mode but to get a bit of muscle-memory and find out where everything is on a prolonged tour is a no-brainer for me. It’s beautiful and feels really comfortable.”
Eve Conroy heads up the Res X team with Stephen Valvasori flying in and out for the bump ins/outs.
“From the factory prep to the touring show, I can’t speak highly enough of the way Res X delivers their product,” commented Cam. “I’ve never used nine different lighting products in a single show with such confidence.”
The ten-week Australian tour sold out quickly, as has the Oct/Nov tour of the UK.