Unsung Heroes - Meet John Campbell

10 April 2018

This week our Digital & Audience Engagement Manager, Nick Kyprianou went up to Liverpool ahead of Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella opening at the Liverpool Empire Theatre (10 – 14 April 2018), to shadow John Campbell (Deputy Electrician & Projection) during the get-in.

The get-in is when the show arrives at a new venue and the backstage crew unload all the production elements and set them up in the theatre. Shadowing John, Nick found out more about his role and a few fun facts!

John’s role has evolved from working on the lighting equipment for New Adventures’ productions to also overseeing the use of projection, as our shows have grown to use video and projecting light more and more. On Cinderella alone, since the 2010/11 tour, the number of projectors used has grown from one to four. Connecting the four projectors to the stage and all of the other equipment that it needs to ‘talk to’ is half a kilometre of fibre optic cabling.

During the get-in at each venue John has to line up each projection so that it’s perfectly aligned with where it needs to be on stage, this is checked at each theatre as the projectors may be in a different place or the distance to the stage/size of the stage may be smaller or bigger. Projection in this context doesn’t just mean the Pathé news reels you see at the beginning of act one and three it’s also a total of 73 cues, including the flames in the fire place in Cinderella’s home and lighting up the Paddington Station sign at the end of the show. Did you know at the beginning of act three, when it’s raining in London, if you look closely you’ll see little droplets falling down the window panes on the set at the back of the stage – this is projection! A lot of projection is also used to highlight designs on the cloths flown in during particular scenes. For example the St Pauls’ sky line that you see is on the cloth but a second image of this is projected over the top to give the movement of the smoke and planes.

Training: John holds a degree in music technology but wanted to work in the theatre so spent three months as a casual technician at Birmingham Hippodrome before working on the musical Wicked. Much of his training is on the job!

Advice: John says get yourself into a venue, have a good attitude and you will soar. For those looking to switch careers into working backstage, don’t be scared, if you’ve got a willingness to learn and perseverance you will be fine.

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