Production Design and Manufacturing

Production Design and Manufacturing

Robbie Williams

Specialz sigils open Robbie Williams shows

It takes a brave and confident lighting designer to use some old fashioned, simple tungsten rope light to create one of the most memorable effects that will have graced a stage anywhere this year: the sigils that open the Robbie Williams show.


Supported by the production design and manufacturing house, Specialz, lighting designer Willie Williams comments, "Although I'm credited with the design of the sigils, in fact the original idea came from Robbie himself - quite literally as some of these symbols are tattoos that he has. For my part, we needed to turn these into something dramatic from a stage perspective, effective from a lighting point of view and durable for extensive touring." (A sigil is a sign or an image that supposedly possesses a magical power so any audience member who spent hours trying to decode them would have been wasting their time).


Production manager, Wob Roberts explains how Specialz got involved, "Specialz were originally commissioned to construct Sigils for the O2 show back in November 2012 both in the air and embedded in the stage decks. The ones in the stage decks were then replicated for the stage that went on to tour in 2013. Although the set was constructed by Brilliant Stages, we asked Dave Smith at Specialz to integrate his fabrication into the set and that proved to be the intelligent decision. In fact, Tony Bowern, Brilliant's general manager said to me, 'Specialz knew exactly what they were doing; the end result could not have been bettered.'"


"Basically, the sigils are lengths of rope light fashioned into shapes," comments Dave Smith, Specialz managing director, "However the key is ensuring that the rope light, which can be unreliable when handled constantly, is firmly secured into the routed stage decks. This means each deck becomes a lighting instrument and therefore more robust for touring with a dedicated distribution system and link leads to minimise handling of the rope lights and to make plugging up the system straightforward."


Specialz worked with Lighting Designer Willie Williams to integrate a series of mystical symbols known as ‘Sigils’ into the stage set and flown pieces. The designs needed to be vibrant and colourful and above all controllable. The designer had previously used ropelight and was keen to see whether the design could be made to work across the modular staging and still work.


Colour samples and test pieces were tried as well as CAD visualisations, a prototype hanging Sigil was made and sent down to Willie for a light test and to assess it’s all round visibility, this experimentation paid off as everything fell into place.


Decks were routed to accept the ropelight which was doubled to outline each Sigil, hanging frames were fabricated with skeletal detail outlining each shape, this was also a double thickness of ropelight.


The end result was spectacular to say the least, show goers were treated to an amazing display especially during the opening number, ‘Let me entertain you”.