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NEW LIGHT ON ARTSCAPE (article first published : 2002-02-15)

The first South African staging of CATS heralds the start of a multi-million rand upgrade of stage facilities at the Artscape Theatre complex.

The first phase of the upgrade was completed just in time to delight audiences in the Pieter Toerien-Artscape production of the celebrated Lloyd Webber musical CATS. Public response and the demand for tickets has been so overwhelming that this has resulted in the Cape Town run being extended twice.

The Artscape complex, which opened 30 years ago, belongs to the Western Cape Provincial Administration (PAWC). According to PAWC's Acting Deputy Chief Engineer, Erik Kiderlen, some of the stage equipment had reached the end of its lifetime.

"We teamed the expertise of Pieter de Swardt and Robin Shuttleworth (fromer Artscape employees) with professional engineers from CA du Toit and MacKenzie-Hoy Shafieqa Ismail to audit the lighting and sound systems. During this process they identify re-useable items for re-allocation to other Artscape venues and determined priorities for a R9 million capital investment in new lighting and sound equipment over the next five years.

Latest innovations include the installation of eight 1 200 watt moving-head spotlights. These lights can swivel 360 degrees, horizontally and vertically, and are extremely adaptable for different productions. Computer-controlled, they are able to cope with the hundreds of cues required for CATS.

According to Terry MacKenzie-Hoy of MacKenzie-Hoy Consulting, the newly installed sound system consists of 18 self-powered tuned speakers with a very large dynamic response and cutting edge sound reproduction. "These make the Opera House much more accessible for a variety of productions. All producers will save as they do not have to hire loose standing equipment in future," he says.

"The Artscape Theatre Centre desperately needed these upgrades in order to continue to attract international hits such as CATS and Les Miserables to Cape Town. We are extremely grateful to the Provincial Administration for their foresight in maintaining this facility to world-class standards," says Artscape CEO, Michael Maas.

Future upgrades include a new lighting desk and dimmers in the Opera House and the installation of additional sound processing equipment to fully complete the system. Similar improvements will also be effected in the Theatre. Artscape hosts an average of 300 events and 800 performances per year.

CATS will perform at Artscape until February 20 before moving to the State Theatre in Pretoria.




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