Circus Building, Copenhagen

The Opportunity:

The oldest of its kind in Europe and a local cultural icon, the Circus Building in Copenhagen, Denmark, hosted prominent Danish and international circus dynasties for more than a century. Today, this building, known for its distinctive architecture and fascinating circus history, belongs to the Swedish Wallmans Group. For the past 13 years, Wallmans has been entertaining Danish and international guests with their dinner show concept in the historic settings of the Circus Building.

A medley of 9-10 acts featuring dancing, singing and circus performances, the Wallmans shows take the audience into different universes from Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale world to contemporary rock ’n’ roll songs. Artistic director Johan Espeland explained the concept: “Our shows are not designed to convey an overall message or theme, they are meant to entertain everybody, regardless of their age, interests or nationality”.

In terms of visual identity, every genre requires a different approach and presents its own challenges. For instance, the show features many fantastic circus acts, which call for a very specific illumination to ensure that the artists are not be blinded by the lights and risk losing their balance or even falling.

“When specifying the new fixtures, I was looking for versatile workhorses that I could deploy in more than one way to get enough coverage across the entire venue and to meet the requirements for very different visual expressions in the show,” said Espeland.

The Solution:

As part of a recent refurbishment of the venue’s three stages, Wallmans invested in a substantial lighting kit from Martin by HARMAN, including MAC Viper Performance, MAC Quantum Wash, MAC Quantum Profile, MAC Aura XB, RUSH MH7 Hybrid, RUSH MH6 Wash, RUSH PAR 1 RGBW and RUSH PAR 2 RGBW Zoom.

The Impact:

“This was a significant investment and the choice of fixtures had to be considered very carefully to meet the requirements not only for this year’s show but also for the years ahead. It was the matter of finding the right fixtures for the right job, and being able to utilize their full potential”, commented lighting designer Mikael Kratt.

Expeland said, “The RUSH MH7 Hybrid is a great multi-purpose fixture. Not only does it provide a razor-sharp beam but also a classic flat-field spot or a frosted wash. They do most of the effect lighting in the show and are a great tool for pop and rock ’n’ roll acts where beam movement and effects are needed.”

During the entire design process, from the initial conceptualization to final programming, Kratt works closely with Johan Espeland and the rest of the artistic team: “Johan has a distinct idea of how he wants the show to look. It is my job to dive into his world and help him create it.” Sometimes this requires unorthodox methodologies, Kratt explains. “I always try to integrate different lighting styles in each show act. A theatrical approach can provide an interesting look in a rock ‘n’ roll song and sometimes a typical pop look with prismed beams works really well in a calmer circus act.”

With a background as a professional dancer, Kratt bases most of this design decisions on the music – its tempo changes, accents and breaks. “Music can evoke a lot of emotions. You can even say that music and musicality – even of the lighting itself – is the most important denominator of my designs. With the new lighting kit, I am able to express this musicality in any way I want. I can do big looks with a lot of beams and aerial effects and I can do that little subtle thing that is just right in a particular scene.”