Theatre Safe Australia (TSA) held a specialist flying workshop at their training facility on the Gold Coast for Technicolour Theatre Company. A purpose-built flying system was constructed for the training to demonstrate the complexities of different systems both manual and automatic. The training also covered integration of the systems into productions, the safety elements to consider and most importantly the end-user operation.

The training set-up consists of a mother grid of Litec truss rigged at a height of 10 metres with a custom ZFX flying track beneath. The manual system consists of ropes, purpose built pulleys and Mil Spec wires that lift the performer up and down as instructed by a flight director and operator pulling the ropes.

During the workshop a trained TSA rigger fitted the custom-made harness to the performer, this is designed to go under costumes and is discreetly hooked to the wires which elevate the performer. The technique of connecting the performer during the performance was demonstrated to the students, for instance, when Mary Poppins takes flight there is a balloon scene prior which hides the in view performer flying system wires as they enter the stage, then the children proceed to hug Mary as the trained performer clips the wire to Mary’s harness simultaneously.

This manual operation takes some practice between the operator and performer, they have to work together so that the flying is seamless. They may often communicate with an established set of signals to help them take flight, land and other movements such as a pirouette or somersault. This is where the TSA training facility is useful to save time and expenses of rehearsing in the theatre, being able to allow performers to become accustomed to the sensation of taking flight in training environment before moving to a stage environment.

Andrew, Director of the Technicolour Theatre Company, commented on the benefits the training gave to the students, “TSA were able to pass on years of industry knowledge to our young performers. There’s certainly a lot more to flying then just being hooked up and flown around the stage. Above all the students really enjoyed the day, especially when they got to take flight!”

Another system that was demonstrated during the training was a powered system, which adds an electric winch to the track and operated by an automation system allowing for automated up and down movement. Every theatre/ venue is different, TSA design and build bespoke systems depending on desired effects and budget. For larger, more complex venues and productions a system can be utilised to automate performers and also scenery. This multi-axis control is achieved with specifically designed automation control systems and software.

TSA are among only a handful of companies in the world where equipment has been specifically designed, manufactured and engineered for the performer flying industry. The equipment is unique in that it is not modified stage, industrial or climbing equipment but custom designed products with the safety and success for use in theatrical productions in mind. This enables our effects to not only operate seamlessly but also ensure that we are following the highest international standard of safety.