Leading theatre consultants Charcoalblue set to expand

The Charcoalblue team

Charcoalblue has announced a record summer for the company and that it plans to expand its team across its Bristol, New York and London studios.

Managing partner Andy Hayles announced this week that the company is due to complete 12 projects over the next 12 months, including the Royal Opera House’s Open Up project, Queen Elisabeth Hall in Antwerp and Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s new space, the Yard.

The company started in 2004 and has since grown to 45 full-time staff and a further six associates. Last year, the multidisciplinary consultancy opened a fourth studio in Melbourne and it has just expanded its strong Bristol base with a new studio on King Street, opposite the Old Vic Theatre, which it is also working on.

“It’s been an incredibly exciting and busy few years for Charcoalblue, and our team has risen to meet the challenges,” says Hayles. “July was our busiest yet and this autumn we’re looking to add to our talented, dynamic team.”

“When searching for new team members, we don’t have a strict set of guidelines, we prefer passion and breadth of performance experience – most of our consultants began their careers in theatre, in lighting, sound and set design or as production and technical managers,” adds Katy Winter, partner.

The company, which consulted on the Stirling Prize- winning Liverpool Everyman and the recently completed Elizabethan Theatre at Chateau d’Hardelot in France, provides design guidance on all aspects of theatre, performance and arts projects.

Performing arts hub at World Trade Center unveiled

Photo: Luxigon
Photo: Luxigon

The final piece of the World Trade Center master plan in  New York has been unveiled – a new home for theatre, dance, music, film and opera. The Ronald O Perelman Performing Arts Center, designed by REX architects and based on a concept developed by Charcoalblue’s New York and London studios, will house three auditoria, a rehearsal space, restaurant, bars and public areas. Set to open in 2020, the centre will have a strong community focus and will foster a new generation of experimental and original creators.

Flexibility is at the core of the scheme with each of the  three individual spaces designed to be reconfigured and combined in several formats to accommodate intimate theatre, contemporary dance, small-scale opera, cinema and immersive events as well as seated and standing concerts.

The centre has also announced Barbra Streisand as  its chairwoman.

From the RSC to the Orange Tree

Seating from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre has found a new home at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre.

Paul Miller, artistic director of the Orange Tree, said “the seats look like they were born to be here. This was a great idea, well planned and perfectly executed with minimum angst. We are now a 180-seat theatre and we’re all delighted with the result.”

Both theatres worked with consultants Charcoalblue on the project as part of the company’s continuing ethos of innovation at any scale.

Putting Bristol at cutting edge of digital design

In its newly opened Bristol studio, Charcoalblue’s Ian Stickland is challenging the world of theatre to understand and embrace the world of digital design and virtual reality.

“It is tempting to look to the past for inspiration, but for theatre to remain relevant our buildings must be equipped for the future,” said Stickland. “Arts practitioners are uniquely qualified to challenge, develop and push the boundaries of technology and space. As a theatre consultant, it is our job to provide an environment for this creativity to grow in a culturally relevant way.”

Prior to Charcoalblue, Stickland worked at Battersea Arts Centre as technical manager. As a senior consultant, he has delivered Chichester Festival Theatre and the Stirling Prize-winning Liverpool Everyman. He now leads Charcoalblue’s dedicated digital design team in Bristol.

30-second interview: Jenni Harris, Charcoalblue senior consultant

Jenni Harris
Jenni Harris

How did you come to work for Charcoalblue?

I was touring as a technical manager and re-lighter when I was first contacted by Charcoalblue about a potential opening. Theatre consultancy is so varied, no two days are the same – one minute I can be designing a small-scale system for a school on a tiny, tiny budget and the next I’m getting on a plane to spend a week with a bunch of experienced theatre technicians on the other side of the world at the Sydney Theatre Company.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt as a theatre consultant?

Listen, tease out the brief, and challenge. Don’t be prescriptive – try to strike a balance between being reactive and proactive. Innovate!

Which of the projects you’ve worked on has been your favourite and why?

My favourite project so far has to be the Perse School Performing Arts Centre, Cambridge. The design team works cohesively and for the benefit of the project at all times – it’s been a pure delight from concept designs to starting on site, and we’re due to open the doors in summer 2017.

What first sparked your love of theatre?

I’ve always had an interest in all things theatre, going on to study it for my degrees and ultimately working in the industry in both theatre management and eventually moving over to ‘the dark side’ of technical production!

What qualities should a performance space have?

A great performance space should not only perfect the basics but allow a creative team to innovate. That’s our challenge as consultants – to use our pooled knowledge to create inspiring and pioneering spaces where visions can be realised.

Looking for a new challenge?

You’re talented, CAD-literate and looking to make an impact – why not join the Charcoalblue team? The company is looking to fill the following roles in its Bristol, New York and London studios:

• Stage engineering design consultants

• Stage lighting and audiovisual design consultants

• Theatre design consultants

• Team leaders

For more information on how to apply go to www.thestage.co.uk/jobs

 For more follow @CharcoalblueTC