He continued: “In Avignon our equipment faces the most gruelling conditions: equipment is frequently moved around, there can be lots of dust, or it gets rained on, and we have to respond to variable demanding requests from lighting designers. We supply lighting and control to several venues, and see it as a laboratory where technology is constantly developing and evolving.”
The festival, which has taken place in July for over 60 years, showcases contemporary drama, dance and stage performances. In 2006, around 100,000 people attended the 20 somewhat unusual venues dotted around the walled city; in addition, some 900 performances by 300 troupes are held as part of the Off (or fringe) Festival.
The centre of the festival, as far as Pernette is concerned, is the Cour d’Honneur (Courtyard of Honour) at the historic Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). Its walls are up to 5.5m (18 ft) thick, which explains why one of the pieces of technology which lighting director Philippe Catalano chose – wireless DMX – proved troublesome: the signals had trouble penetrating the walls.
Special care must be taken to ensure that the lighting can be used regardless of weather conditions. In an ingenious solution has been developed by Philippe Berthom_, lighting designer for King Lear, some of the 14 ETC Source Four Revolution moving lights are mounted on ‘arms’, which are tracked, so the luminaires can be rolled in and out of the windows above the outdoor stage. When not needed, they are rolled back out of sight. The idea was then developed further, so that four different luminaires were mounted on a h_licopt_re, four rotating arms; a technician turns the system to select the arm with the fixture they need before rolling it forward.
“The luminaires need to be carried up a large number of steps to reach what is almost the highest point in Avignon. The Revolution has a locking mechanism which stops it moving around when being carried, avoiding possible injuries,” explained Pernette.
The Palais des Papes also has an ETC Congo lighting control console, originally designed by Avab, and its little brother, Congo jr. ETC’s newest networking technology, Net3 – featuring ACN streaming – as well as IES Matrix Mk II SineWave dimming are also in use.
Meanwhile, at the Cour du Lyc_e Saint-Joseph, Source Fours have been specifically requested for the first time. Thirty-five Source Four Zooms have been installed at the request of Polish director Kyzysztof Warlikowski for the 5_-hour long Angels in America, lit by Felice Ross. These weigh less than half that of equivalent condenser steel profiles – a key issue, given that they are rigged on a 19m long truss.
In charge of servicing the Avignon Festival venues, the volante lumi_re – the ‘flying squad’ group of lighting technicians provided by the festival management – can go and deal with issues on site as they arise, whether they be lighting, dimming, networking, wiring or even water damage caused by rain.
Pernette concluded: “The French are extremely loyal when it comes to lighting – they prefer to work with lighting manufacturers that they know and are used to working with. So the Avignon Festival, for me, is a great opportunity to meet many of my customers and get feedback from them.”