Marlowe Theatre – Auditorium Lighting Upgrade

Marlowe Theatre Canterbury

The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury recently underwent a significant auditorium lighting overhaul, successfully completed in August 2023. They turned to Push The Button (PTB) for expertise in designing a retrofit solution that would not only modernise their lighting system but also illuminate previously dark areas within the auditorium. This ambitious project had to be executed within a tight nine-day timeframe, squeezed in between scheduled shows.

The task at hand involved updating 224 downlights, incorporating 5 existing fixtures, and adding 10 new high-level downlights above the stalls, which required specialist equipment for installation. Additionally, 72 linear step lights and 10 square step lights were part of the upgrade.

PTB devised a lighting plan for the auditorium, leveraging ETC ArcSystem products to ensure uniform seat coverage and address any existing dark spots. Their approach also aimed to maintain the aesthetics of the scallop illumination of the wooden panelling on the walls.

Given the limited timeframe for the lighting replacement, PTB had to perform preparatory work in the weeks leading up to the closure period. This involved the efforts of fifteen engineers who worked diligently around performances and during night shifts. In June and July 2023, PTB updated the wiring infrastructure, ensuring that power and data cables were in place for the upcoming fitting replacement.

The new LED low-level wall lights eliminated the need for the existing ETC Sensor dimmer. During the preparatory phase, PTB disconnected the existing circuits from the dimmer, connecting them instead to a new distribution board for continuous power. Cat5e cables were pulled from the dimmer room to provide DMX control to each light fixture, and new ETC ArcSystem LED drivers were installed. A new equipment rack in the dimmer room housed the necessary DMX splitters to control the upgraded lighting, which featured Zico LEDs.

Previously, the front section of the stalls suffered from insufficient lighting and the use of incorrect fixtures. PTB tackled this issue by utilising specialised equipment and abseiling techniques by harness trained engineers to create ten new square holes in the ceiling baffles, matching the existing lighting. ETC ArcSystem One-Cell high output downlights were installed in these openings, as well as in the existing five ceiling positions. The result was a significantly improved light quality over the stalls, with silent operation and seamless dimming.

To further enhance the auditorium’s appearance and ensure visitor safety, PTB custom-manufactured and installed 72 LED strip lights and 10 square LED lights to replace the outdated fixtures.

The Marlowe Theatre already had an ETC Paradigm system in place to control their lighting. PTB utilised this existing system and crafted a new program to manage the upgraded installation seamlessly.

Despite the challenging time constraints, meticulous planning, and front-end work allowed Push The Button to complete the project ahead of schedule and within budget by August 2023. The Marlowe Theatre now boasts a modern, well-lit, auditorium providing an enhanced experience for audiences.