Technical Theatre - Behind the Scenes

The cycle of a theatre is dictated by programming, whether they are a receiving or producing house and whether they are a dedicated theatre or a multi-purpose facility.

There are lots of elements that can affect their buying pattern when it comes to technical equipment and installation and their ability to upgrade sound and lighting systems, especially with so many areas and zones to consider – stage, FOH and backstage relay etc. Here we look at the key influences and how bespoke system design helps venues to be as flexible as possible.

Programming plays an important part in technical planning, especially if a receiving house, as the peak time for tours is from September to May. Traditionally many receiving houses would be ‘dark’ during the quieter summer period. The exception would be coastal venues who might be heavily focussed on Summer months with a captive tourist audience, more so than ever at the moment with the emphasis on holidaying in the UK - but all venues need to find time in their schedules for technical upgrades.  Most venues would normally use this quiet time for maintenance gearing themselves up for the autumn season leading up to the hugely important, in terms of revenue, pantomime season. There is little time for routine maintenance during this time period, shows become the priority and equally the technical team are often only on-site in the evening and at weekends.

Finding the time for planning and implementing any capital upgrades is then a challenge. With the recommendation that venues also carry out electrical safety testing every 12 months during ‘dark’ periods requiring the tech team to de and re-rig systems and carry out pat testing this is the ideal, if exceptionally busy time, to install a new system. This time also gives the technical team the opportunity to train and test on new systems to ensure they are fully operational before a peak season starts – hugely important with the way technical teams are often managed within the programme of events.

We have to factor in the casual nature of technical theatre, often there is a small core team greatly enhanced by a pool of external freelancers, giving as much lead time as possible for training and testing is paramount. Plus, the added issue of tours bringing their own techs in creating a hybrid team at very short notice- there is little time luxury when managing approx. 75 different productions each year.

Finances also play a huge part in the decision to upgrade. Where many venues are grant supported, either by charitable organisations or by local government,  access to capital funding is hard to come by and may only be available at certain times such as the start of the financial year when grants are awarded and, strangely enough, the end of the financial year where there can be a spend or lose culture and this has to be factored into providing exceptional quality, robust systems that will suit the venues changing requirements in the future and address the constant stream of end-users when it comes to performance transmitters and receivers.

In the current climate there is still uncertainty within the industry on the consistency of being able to remain open. Even as we return to normal, venues may have the decision to open taken out of their hands with limited or no notice by government guidelines so there must be huge pressure on venues to be generating an income all year round.  Day-time activities, such as conferences and meetings, which have not been a traditionally income stream will be added but which the current technical kit may not be suitable for. 

So how can we work together to ensure the best flexible and safe systems for providing both entertainment, announcements and public safety in these buildings.  Venues will install a PA system that covers their spaces and allows for announcements and music in multiply rooms and a dedicated wireless microphone system, such as our Trantec range, for performances. Our wide range of high quality speakers enable us to rise to the design challenge to address the unusual spaces they need to be installed whilst ensuring they are still effective. Certainly across 4 venues the pro audio system needs to be inter-transferable to keep the technical kit both cost effective but also allow for complete flexibility between venues. It is certainly a juggling job when you have such variants in the number of performers in each venue on a week to week basis. 

So how can we help? At TOA we have a dedicated technical team who work with installers to advise, design and build bespoke systems taking into consideration the unique spaces that venues often are.  We can provide detailed specifications and the best solutions for sound to ensure that we offer you the right products for your project and provide installation and follow up support. All our rack systems are built and tested in-house in our workshop and each one is individual to our client’s needs.  Once installed on site we will commission the system to ensure that it meets the clients agreed specification.  

Our Trantec Rack ‘n Ready systems are also made to order in our workshop and come in following combinations, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 receivers/transmitters with a combination of beltpack or handheld and are built in 19” professional flight cases.

To find out more about our specialised technical services contact: technical(at)

To see our Trantec range click here:

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