grandMA2 for Market Theatre

01 October 2009

Carl Johnson and Nomvula Molepo with Market Theatre team along with DWR’s Nick Britz, who presented training on the console and Dan Riley.   The Market Theatre, after researching and testing various consoles over a nine month period have made their choice. Dan Riley, from DWR Distribution, was involved as a technician with the installation of the theatre’s first desk, a Compact 80, and now some 33 years later, was more than delighted to present them with a newer model, a grandMA 2 ultra-light.    

Carl Johnson, Production Manager, at the Market says there were various issues which influenced the decision. “The majority of lighting platforms of theatres that we receive and send productions to and from are utilising or migrating to grandMA technology, this includes some of our international partners. Most of the lighting designers that we work with on a regular basis spoke very favourably about the grandMA product, which software has a reputation for stability and updates implemented on schedule.”

It has to be mentioned that the Market received their first taste for grandMA when the console was used by lighting designer Denis Hutchinson for the production Brothers in Blood. In essence, Denis was using Robe DigiSpots (hired in from MGG) for the show. DWR loaned a grandMA desk, as this has proved a very effective tool to control the DigiSpots, which were being used for the first time in a South African theatre. Once the show had been programmed, it was transferred and run with success on grandMA, PC version.

When the Market Theatre started experiencing problems with their former desk, mostly due to age, Dan Riley called in to see them. He arranged one on one demonstrations at the DWR offices with the Market’s Head of Lighting and 2008 Naledi Award Winner for Lighting, Nomvula Molepo. Nomvula caught on easily and enjoyed the desk’s capabilities.    

 “The desk which had been giving the Market hassles finally gave up the ghost at the eleventh hour, advancing the purchase of a new console,” said Dan Riley. When the console stopped working in the middle of programming the production Touch my Blood (with LD Wesley France), Duncan Riley from DWR received an S.O.S. phone call from Carl Johnson… PLEASE HELP.

DWR Distribution assisted by loaning the Market the grandMA full size demo desk. “Basically we only had two days to programme,” comments Duncan Riley. “We got Robert Grobler involved as a freelance programmer and all went well. As it was our demo console, which is a back-up console, we transferred the show onto MA on PC with a node.” The show ran for a 7 to 8 week run without a glitch. “You know that running on a computer can give you problems, but for the Market this was the final proof that MA works.” 

DWR Distribution, nonetheless, had to follow a tender process, and were privileged when the order for the new console was allocated to them. “It has been lovely to be involved with something I’ve seen grow since the beginning,” says Dan Riley. “And purchasing a grandMA2 from the original Compact 80… that’s a great leap for mankind,” he laughs. “The Market has always been a controversial theatre. They started operating in an era when it was unpopular to speak out against apartheid. They have always been progressive and told authentic South African stories in their productions.”



The Compact 80. The above pics were sourced off the internet. Haven’t we come a long way.


The grandMA2’s first show will be to programme the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival (LX design by Nomvula Molepo) headlined by acclaimed American singer Phil Perry. Comments Nomvula, “We have been getting along perfectly with the console. We are happy and really enjoy using it. The moving lights are so easy to programme, record and also for saving cues and effects. We like everything about it and it’s simple to manage.”

Phil Perry’s encor at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival   With spring in the air, theatre goers as always can look forward to some top notch performances. “The Market’s local and international reputation for producing high quality authentic South African work has ensured that our audience is growing,” said Carl Johnson. “Ongoing technological development in both physical and human resources has also added to this growth over the years. Like most Jo’burg theatres our winter had a little dip due to a combination of the weather, the recession and disposable income spent on the Confed Cup, but our houses are excellent with us just having closed a sell out season of Marc Lottering (lit by LX Designer Nicholas Michaletos using the grandMA2 operated by Motlalepule Makhate) and Bafana Republic and Foreplay currently also playing to good houses.


In addition, there are plans in the pipeline that will develop the Market’s sound and lighting capabilities across all three existing venues. 


“The Market has a well earned reputation for making great South African Theatre – this is what motivates us to make more!” said Carl Johnson.


DWR Distribution asked Carl about the service he has received with the new purchase.  He answered “To sum it up in a word: excellent!”