The Kings Theatre in Southsea, Portsmouth is one of those Edwardian treasures that are fast becoming a rarity in the provinces. This exquisite example, with its Italian Renaissance style of décor and façade, first opened its doors in 1907 and has seen the likes of Sarah Bernhardt, Noel Coward and Ivor Novello grace the stage. As a centre for arts and entertainment, it has served the audiences of Portsmouth and Southsea faithfully ever since.
Fast forward to 2013 and the Kings has successfully moved with the times, upgrading and modernising its facilities without losing any of its original charm and theatrical heritage, not always an easy balancing act as Technical Manager, Nick Benjamin explains. “The time had come to replace our house followspots – the inclusion of new moving light fixtures on our rig meant our old models were simply not bright enough to do their job effectively on stage any longer – so we started the process of finding replacements. Sam Crook, Technical Director from theatre specialists, London Light came down with a shortlist of models for us to try out ‘in situ’. It was the compact Victor followspot from Robert Juliat that won the day.”
So why choose the Robert Juliat option? “Kings has been extensively restored and now accommodates a very wide programme of performances as well as hosting theatre training sessions,” continues Benjamin, “So it’s really important that we have the best equipment for technicians to have access to as well as providing a quality product for visiting shows. We really appreciated the input from London Light who allowed us to hold an open afternoon when six of our house followspot operators were able to come and try the spots out for themselves. The management might be signing the cheques but, for us, it was vital to get feedback from those who would actually be operating them. They all commented on the quality ‘feel’ of the unit, the balance, the quiet running. Out of all the potential choices our operators voted unanimously for the Victor – the small extra financial investment is more than made up for by the quality of the Robert Juliat product.”
“Try before you buy is an integral part of our customer service,” adds Crook. “Particularly when you are acquiring a fixture that really needs to stand the test of time. The Victor is the perfect solution for a theatre of King’s dimensions. It is as compact as a 1200W yet contains an 1800W lamp and produces an output that rivals any mid-throw 2500W followspot with the similar beams angles of 7/14.5° giving it an energy saving edge on its competitors.’
‘London Light has been a stalwart customer of Ambersphere Solutions for some time and we knew that they had recently become UK distributors for Robert Juliat. The combination of manufacturing quality from Robert Juliat and the superb service and back-up that we have always received from Ambersphere is a real winner in my mind.”
Certainly, the Kings Theatre is sure that this has been a successful purchase. “You have to look at the longevity of the Robert Juliat catalogue to know that these follow spots will be cutting it long after a cheaper solution has run its course,” concludes Benjamin. “Add to that the quality of support from both London Light and Robert Juliat’s new distributor, Ambersphere Solutions and we are confident that we have made the intelligent decision.”