Figurehead of stage lighting supply company Unusual Rigging, who worked on a number of West End shows and became a part of the National Theatre’s lighting team when it moved to its new building on the South Bank
A hugely influential figure in technical theatre for nearly 40 years, Alan Jacobi believed that anything was possible in terms of staging.
Unusual Rigging, the Northamptonshire-based company he established in 1983, became a world leader in entertainment rigging and engineering, with Jacobi as its flamboyant figurehead, forever innovating, inspiring and encouraging others.
Jacobi – widely known as AJ – grew up in Oxford and worked from the age of 16 at the Oxford Playhouse. By the early 1970s, he had gained sufficient experience to land a job at London’s Old Vic, when the National Theatre under Laurence Olivier was preparing to move to the Southbank complex.
His rigorous work ethic, technical versatility and likeability ensured that he became an indispensable member of the lighting team in the new building.
With the help of the National’s resident lighting designer David Hersey, Jacobi transferred his attention to commercial theatre and worked on a succession of West End shows – Evita, Cats, Les Misérables, Starlight Express and others.
The success of Unusual Rigging led to expansion in the 1990s to incorporate the production of large-scale national and international events, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, for which he was appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order.
In 2018, Jacobi received the Gottelier lifetime achievement award from the Professional Lighting and Sound Association in recognition of his work raising the profile of the rigging industry, and for championing the need for training and education in the sector. He was a driving force behind the National Rigging Certificate accreditation scheme, introduced in 2005.
‘AJ was one of those life forces – always able to get things done which meant ‘no’ was never an option’ – lighting designer Rob Halliday
Hersey described Jacobi as “one of the industry’s true originals; working with him was always a joy”, while lighting designer Rob Halliday wrote: “AJ was one of those life forces – always able to get things done which meant ‘no’ was never an option. It was a priceless attitude when you were trying to deliver the seemingly impossible.”
Alan Jacobi was born on March 9, 1953 and died on April 13, aged 67. He is survived by his wife Peta and two children.