White Light has recently supplied the lighting equipment for Mamma Mia – The Party; an immersive theatrical dining extravaganza based around the music of ABBA.

Created by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, Mamma Mia – The Party transports its audience to the island of Skopelos where taverna owner Nikos and his family present their story in a glorious night of song, dance and feasting. Running for four hours, the show is packed full of ABBA’s best-known songs which are performed by actors and musicians around the audience members. The show was first performed in Sweden and has now arrived in London, where it is running at The O2, Greenwich.

The Lighting Designer for the show is the award-winning Patrick Woodroffe. He comments: “For Mamma Mia – The Party, we wanted our audience to truly believe they were in a Greek taverna on Skopelos. Bengt Fröderberg’s set design was so authentic and, for the first act, we wanted to mirror that with very realistic dappled lighting that slowly changed colour temperature as dusk falls. As the piece progresses into Act 2, we enter into some of the fantasy scenes and the lighting starts to become more theatrical and abstracted. Finally, in Act 3, we make an unashamed rock/pop concert!”.

The show takes place inside a custom-built space within The O2. As a result, Patrick had to create a design that would work within this space. He explains: “The main part of the lighting system is rigged from trusses directly over the open floor below. However, we made a deliberate decision to try and hide the lighting rig and fixtures with a lattice of vines and tree foliage to create the sense of it being a real taverna. It did become somewhat complicated to try and hide the lights but we made it work so that it still allowed them to focus through the branches and reach the performers. Other fixtures were rigged from the columns and the balconies that surround the main floor and on which much of our audience is seated”.
To create the specific rig needed, Patrick approached WL to provide the lighting equipment. He states: “On a practical level, we wanted to have all LED fixtures so maintenance would be easy for the technical crew over the entire run of the show. With this in mind, we used a mixture of GLP S350s, Clay Paky Axcor Wash 300s, GLP X4Ls, GLP X4Ss and GLP KNV Dots. In addition, there were strings of festoon, fairy lighting and a complete fibre optic starcloth that played above everything else; as well as over 50 custom pixel windows”.

Unlike a traditional show, Mamma Mia – The Party is a theatrical dining experience, meaning the performance takes place across the whole space, fully immersing its audience members. As such, Patrick had to achieve the correct balance between lighting the performers along with the room itself. He explains: “We made an important choice early in the design process to replace the followspots with a tracking system that would use fixtures from the overhead rig to follow the performers. This was a creative, as well as a budget-driven, decision. The action takes place all throughout the venue – on the main floor, on a mini stage at one end of the room and also on the stairways and balconies. There wasn’t a single place where a followspot would have been able to reach all of these positions. We identified the Zaktrack system from Vienna as the most suitable solution for this and, although it took some time to tune the system because of the complexities of the space, the result was very successful. We can follow a performer right across the room, fading out one fixture and bringing in another as the scenery dictates. Not only that but we can do this with up to five performers at a time; something that happens more than once during the show”.
Mamma Mia – The Party has now opened to rave reviews and is booking into 2020.
Patrick concludes: “This was a show that required a lot of rehearsal and programming to achieve the theatrical effects needed but the end result is a completely unique theatrical experience. I’d like to thank Rob Casey, who was my Associate on the show, Chris Hirst who programmed the grandMA and Johanna Jenson, who was our Script Supervisor”.

Images courtesy of Helen Maybanks