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West Road Concert Hall

The West Road Concert Hall is part of the Music Faculty on the north side of the Sidgwick Site; it is primarily used as a concert hall for student and town groups, as well as other hirers e.g. local church groups. Of primary interest to theatre types are the CUOS Lent Term show (usually in week 5) and the CUG&S Lent Mainshow (the first G&S show at West Road was in 2014; the G&S Mainshow will continue to be in West Road until at least 2017).

The current Concert Hall manager is Ms George Unsworth (gu202). The West Road custodians are also a valuable source of information; they operate out of the small building next to the faculty (straight ahead when you go into the car park).

The venue has a website containing in-depth technical specifications at [www.westroad.org/hire/technical]; this page will mainly focus on how the venue has been used for past theatre productions.

Rehearsals

Availability for rehearsals will be dependent on other hires; contact the Custodians for more information. The neighbouring Recital Room may also be available, but is used for lectures during the week. Companies wishing to rehearse in the space will normally have to book the auditorium at the standard or subsidised venue hire rate, depending upon how closely affiliated with the Cambridge Faculty of Music the producing Society is.

Technical information

The stage is 17.5m wide and 8.7m deep in its standard configuration; there is a stage extension which sacrifices 60 seats for an extra 3m of stage depth. There is a removable cover on the front of the stage which opens to reveal an orchestra pit. For theatre productions, a black vinyl flooring (the "Marley Floor") is used to cover the main stage, to prevent damage to the wood from scenery or particularly vigorous dancing.

In standard configuration, there are 499 seats of which most are in the central block, with a few dozen seats on balconies to either side of the auditorium. Note that the view of the stage from most of the balcony seats is heavily restricted, particularly when side and top masking is hung to create a proscenium-like effect. Theatrical and operatic productions may wish to sell these as restricted view seats or block them off completely. As they are not visible from the main seating block, the auditorium does not "look" empty if they are unfilled.

Lecture Rooms 4 and 5 are usually available as dressing rooms; the Recital Room can also be used, and also acts as the get-around between the PS and OP wings. Orchestral rehearsals continue in the Recital Room during most show weeks. Soundproofing is relatively good, but production companies are advised to liaise with rehearsal orchestras to notify them that actors will be (silently) passing through. Note that the Lecture Rooms are (as per their name) used for lectures during the week, so show property must be moved back into the auditorium following performances on Sunday-Thursday nights.

Entrances can be from the PS or OP side of stage, or via several routes in the auditorium.

Loading access is via the OP wing; there are two sets of doors which are 3m tall x 2m wide (approximately). There are no workshop facilities onsite, though flight cases and scenery may be stored in the Recital Room during the day.

Lighting

The venue has a default lighting rig of side bars on either side of the auditorium, an electrically winched advance bar and fixed positions accessible from over-stage gantries (details of standard rig available on their website). Of these, only the winch bar and the FoH side bars are likely to be of interest to theatrical/opera LDs, as there is very little space on the over-stage positions to add extra lights, and the positions are very "toppy". The dimmed 15A outlets above the stage may on occasion be useful however. The venue control desk is a Zero88 Jester, but most largeish shows will hire in their own desk.

There are 63A 3ph supplies at gantry level and stage level in the USPS corner of stage; the current wisdom is to drop a cable down from the gantry supply, as access to the gantries is prohibited during shows and you want to be able to reset your dimmers if they trip!

Pretty much all recent theatre productions in West Road have rigged their own trusses over stage; there are two rows of four points in the venue, each with a SWL of 250kg. Rigging off these points will require a suitably experienced top rigger with some experience of rope access, and should be discussed with the venue well in advance. Duncan Wood owns a set of chain hoists which are usually used for load lifting. These trusses are also used to rig drapes to provide side and top masking. As of 2014, Light Motif Ltd. own a set of drapes and a cyc sized to fit West Road - contact info@lightmotif.net for more details. Lightweight set elements and cloths can also be rigged from other points above stage subject to assessment by a competent person and suitable risk assessment. The furthest upstage standard truss rigging point, often used for a cyc, is about 1.5-1.75m from the back wall. Productions planning to use a cyc should be prepared to give up at least this much stage depth. There is also a standard truss rigging point directly above the stage edge of the open orchestra pit; this is often used for masking drapes.

Any show which wishes to use their own trusses will need to get a number of crew authorised to work on the gantries; contact the Custodians well in advance.

Access for focusing is via the venue's Tallescope; the advance bar positions in particular are very high, so the canny LD will specify lots of moving lights. Note also that certain set designs may prevent the Tallescope from getting to stage (it is stored in the loading bay out back).

Masking and Setup as a Theatre

While the auditorium ceiling is quite high (on the order of 8m), the standard masking cuts the maximum visible height down to just under 5m above the stage. Set elements or actor heads above this point will not be visible.

The three rows of seats (A-C) below stage-level (those that can be covered by the stage extension) are something of a masking nightmare – it is typically possible to see all the way into the wings from these seats.

Pit

The West Road orchestra pit is quite sizable and well-equipped. Music stands with new (as of 2014) plug-in (RAT-style) stand-lamps are included with venue hire. There is room for a sizable orchestra (example of one that has fit – 23 players as follows: 7 violins, 2 violas, 2 celli, 1 bass, 2 clarinets, oboe, bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 percussionist playing bass drum and 2 timpani). There is a conducting block available to enable the conductor to be visible to those onstage.

Last edited Mon 10th Feb 2014 by Dylan Morris

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