Founded in 1970 Leeds Playhouse, whose opening night starred a youthful Sir Tony Robinson, relocated to Quarry hill and re-branded as West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1990. Relaunched with its original much-loved name as part of a major £16 million refurbishment completed in 2019, Leeds Playhouse is now alive again as one of Britain’s most exciting producing theatres.
Adlib was part of a group of companies put forward to tender for the refurbishment project against the theatre consultant’s specifications.
Adlib was selected for the project, which included the refurbishment of two spaces, “The Courtyard”, “The Quarry”, and the newly created intimate studio space “The Bramall Rock Void”, as well as integrated building-wide performance systems.
Adlib engaged with the client from the early stages – developing elements of the performance specification, incorporating the client’s ideas, and meeting the exacting requirements and commissioning process required by the theatre consultants.
A major part of this project was the integration of the existing building-wide cabling infrastructure with the new, which included multi-discipline facility panels, stage lighting dimmers, DMX and RDM networking, as well as all sound and data infrastructure for the entire building.
The client held documentation for most of the legacy systems, however, these had to be verified pre-installation due to undocumented changes and additions to the systems over the years. Adlib provided additional resources to ensure that all these systems were correctly identified, ensuring their smooth integration into the new infrastructure. This was a particular challenge as Adlib’s late appointment to the project meant many of the systems had already been disrupted by the ongoing demolition works.
Within the newly created Bramall Rock Void Adlib designed, installed, and commissioned a large bespoke lighting grid, and designed, supplied and installed an ETC/GDS house lighting system with show blues and whites controlled from various locations. These ranged from pushbutton stations for simple area control right through to complex touchscreen implementations at key control locations. ETC Echo control was utilised in the Rock Void
space with the more powerful and comprehensive ETC Paradigm system adopted for the two main performance spaces.
Stage lighting to the Bramall Rock Void and Courtyard performance spaces was achieved with a combination of ETC Coloursource, thru-power wall-mounted dimmers to the Rock Void, and ETC sensor 3 modular power control systems racks to the Courtyard space. The Quarry performance systems infrastructure remained largely untouched.
Bespoke facility panels for the entire venue, combining both dimmer, hot power as well as all manner of control connectivity, was supplied and manufactured by Robolights to our design department’s specification Adlib also supplied and installed colour-coordinated internally wired lighting bars to the restaurant area with a simple control from an Anyscene preset panel.
Adlib recognised the requirements at an early stage to redesign the specified paging system to meet the client's requirements for the venue. We designed, from scratch, a bespoke theatre-wide paging system that allows for the three performance spaces to communicate easily with each other as well as the rest of the venues whilst also integrating with as much of the legacy system as possible.
The paging system is based around the Q-SYS Ecosystem range of equipment and allows for complete reconfiguration, fault reporting and monitoring of all aspects of the system. The paging stations incorporate a robust touchscreen interface for all standard zone paging. Within the technical area systems, these have been incorporated into the GDS Stage Management console which allows for the recording of multiple presets, enabling system configurations to change from show to show.
The system components meet the requirements of EN-54 standard allowing the system to be used in voice evacuation with suitable cabling infrastructure.
A comprehensive analogue and digital audio infrastructure was specified, supplied, and installed. These systems included the redevelopment and integration of some existing star-quad cabled facility panels into the scheme, enabling the venue to retain some of the existing infrastructure they have developed over the years to make the performance spaces more user-friendly to incoming shows.
This, however, did require some clever patchbay design so that the finished system appeared to be well thought out and easy to understand. This was further complicated by the integration of the playhouse’s existing network audio, DSP systems, control, and replay equipment.
The building-wide infrastructure also included a comprehensive, structured fibre network with connections to all key facility panels and control locations. This allows for future-proofing of the venue and ease of patching through the three Performance spaces to the existing radio and recording studios.
The Playhouse also owned a large talkback system that extended to duplex radio comms with separate channels for each venue as well as front-of-house and technical staff.
Our new systems were headed up by Clear-Com communications, comprising a two-channel system in the newly created Bramall Rock Void, and a four-channel system in the revitalised Courtyard theatre. These systems were also integrated with the Quarry auditorium, which retained most of its original systems.
Adlib installed and commissioned two Tait Radio communications systems. This allowed for duplex radio communications from the wired systems in both the Courtyard and Bramall Rock Void spaces to be relayed to technicians in other parts of the theatre complex.
Finally, Sennheiser infrared-assisted listening systems were installed in both The Courtyard and The Bramall Rock void with the same audio feed being fed into them via control room patching along with building-wide patchable output positions.
As with all consultant-led projects there is an emphasis to provide the best systems and value for money, delivering the optimum operating system for the venue and delivering the theatre experience for all audiences.
Adlib has maintained a good working relationship with the client from the start of the project which continued throughout the project.
Although the project was very challenging with a very limited lead-in period from order to commencing work on site, Adlib rose to the challenge.
Leeds Playhouse has been named Theatre Building of the Year 2020 at The Stage Awards, which paid tribute to its ‘complete transformation’ in the wake of a major £16m redevelopment. This is the first time the Theatre Building of the Year title has been awarded to an organisation based outside of London.