Theatre and professional rental specialist, Gearhouse Splitbeam of Johannesburg, has made its first investment in Ayrton, purchasing a consignment of new Ayrton Rivale Profile fixtures from Ayrton’s South African distribution partner, Planetworld.

The decision came after a concerted post-pandemic fact-finding mission to secure the best new LED moving lights with which to update Splitbeam’s aging lighting stock, spurred on by the impending requirements of Showtime Management’s production of Mamma Mia! later in the year and a need to increase its stock of LED moving lights. Departing from its traditional manufacturers, Splitbeam decided in favour of Ayrton Rivale Profile following a shoot-out between major manufacturers’ products and a visit to the Ayrton factory just ahead of the launch of Rivale Profile.

 “We are essentially a theatre and long-term lease company working only on theatre productions, and therefore concerned with the finer details of moving lights,” explains Splitbeam’s managing director, Alistair Kilbee.“Previously we’d experienced problems with colour mixing in LED moving heads, but Michael Althaus (Ayrton’s Global Sales Director) promised me Rivale would solve these problems. And he was right!

“I was blown away by Rivale – compared to everyone else on the market, Rivale is a phenomenal fixture that ticks all our boxes. The inclusion of a progressive CMY colour discs to control the intensity of colour removes any ‘halo’ effect, and is especially effective with the pastel colours we use in theatre. It’s a white light source, which is the only solution in my opinion, and a nice ‘medium’ size light which fits nicely into a theatre grid without taking up a lot of space. In theatre we are very picky about the finer points like this and the improvement in the colour mixing is in keeping with the rest of Rivale’s build quality, which is lovely.

“We are very impressed with the sound levels as it is a very quiet unit, and the IP65 rating assists with lowering the noise levels too.

“The LED source of just 430W obviously makes a difference from an environmental and cost point of view, in terms of lamp replacement and running costs, while outputwise, even out-performing some of the largest fixtures out there.”

Kilbee placed his first Rivale Profile order with Mike Summerfield of Planetworld for 36 units, which were turned around quickly and immediately went out on tour with Showtime Management’s production of Mamma Mia!

 The production’s lighting and set designer, Denis Hutchinson, commented: “When I first laid out the design for Mamma Mia!, Splitbeam was on board as the equipment supplier and had committed to supplying new gear, but not yet made a decision on which gear. Needless to say, I was pushing for units that would work best for me, but very aware that the reality of the South African rental market is that suppliers need flexibility, for indoor use as well as outdoors near the sea.

“Enter the new Rivale. I’d had reservations about the colour mixing, particularly for the theatre where one tends to want more pastel colours, but here is colour mixing I can work with. Add to that the small footprint which is always a plus in a tightly packed flytower, the low noise level, a really good light frost, clear shutters and a whack of light out the front, and I totally see why Splitbeam took the plunge.”

“We’ve had lots of positive feedback from the lighting fraternity for Rivale,” says Kilbee, “but Denis is a leading theatre consultant and theatre lighting designer, so if he was happy then I was sure the other LDs in SA would also be happy. I’m also happy he has been so positive about the light, since we told him this was the one he would get!

“The service and speed of response we received from both Ayrton and Planetworld was phenomenal and gave me a lot of confidence in the product and the service. The fact Ayrton was willing to talk to me on a daily basis shows the extent to which they love their product and take it seriously. I expect great service from my staff so it’s great to get that level of service in return. Also, the factory visit was a huge turning point for me. It changed my mental relationship with, and opinion of, Ayrton when I realised the stringent tests and controls that were carried out on the fixtures. These were on another level and very impressive.

“We are very happy with our Rivale purchase. The IP65 rating is definite advantage going forward and especially useful for cross hiring with our parent company which works largely in rock and roll.”

Produced by leading SA promoter Showtime Management, the new look MAMMA MIA! features a full South African cast, crew, and band, and is headed by an award-winning South African creative team. The tour kicked off on 6 March 2024 at the Artscape Opera House, Cape Town playing to full houses before transferring to Teatro, Montecasino, Johannesburg on 12 April where it will run until 9 June.

Photos: © Christiaan Kotze, © Alistair Kilbee
Text: Julie Harper

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