Following the success of the 2007 Beautiful World tour, Brilliant Stages were once again chosen to bring to life the imaginative and dramatic stage designs for Take That’s Circus Live Tour 2009.

The combined creative talents of Show Producer, Kim Gavin and Set Designer, Es Devlin devised a circus-themed set for which Brilliant Stages created a total of 5 stages, in addition to several pieces of staging wizardry, for the 20 UK stadium dates.

The biggest challenge was that a set of this magnitude would be a 4/5 month build under normal circumstances. We had to condense it into 11 weeks!
Clay Brock, Project Manager
Photo Credit: Es Devlin
Photo Credit: Es Devlin

Main Stage and The C Stage

The main performer stage, 18m wide x 17.8m deep with tech tunnels beneath and access steps on either side, incorporated 6 lifts: a piano lift, 2 double band lifts and a puppet lift for the show finale.

Two satellite stages with weather-proof tech bunkers beneath were linked by ramps to the main stage and housed sound kit and instruments. A 6m-deep C stage, also with tech bunkers, was located at the front of the performer stage and incorporated two flights of curved steps with a central split-reveal and parking for the motorised lozenge and its extendable track.

The Lozenge

Originally designed to be manually operated for a single use and incorporating a piano lift, the 3m x 6m lozenge became a real workhorse, adapted to be motorised so it could track under its own power to make no fewer than 7 trips back and forth along the track between the main and ‘B’ stages. The lozenge was also required to carry props during set up and to break down into sections small enough to be lifted by lightweight forklift trucks.

The lozenge also acted as a train to pull a 1.5m high x 2.4m wide raised walkway, designed to carry 40 performers, 38m from the ‘A’ to the ‘B’ stage. The walkway was built understage in 1m sections by a 6-strong team and linked together soundlessly by means of pins and clips for rapid, silent deployment during a 6-minute solo number.

The B-Stage and The Elephant

Brilliant Stages also devised the 12m wide x 2m high, multi-tiered, ‘B’ stage complete with hydraulically operated ‘petal’ segments in the top which opened 260° to reveal one of the show’s centrepieces, a 7.8m high mechanical elephant which was to transport the band to the main stage as part of their entrance.

Brilliant Stages built the substructure for the elephant around a purpose-built, two-level scissor-lift which was motorised to turn on a slew ring and track the length of the auditorium to the main stage, having first been released out of hinged front sections of the B stage.

The elephant’s translucent skin of light-weight chain mail, constructed by Mark Mason of Asylum Models (who also made the skins for the big top and the Ringmaster puppet), was placed on top of the substructure and automated by a total of 13 puppeteers inside the skin and another 4 at ground level, activating the head, trunk and legs, and with rods to move the ears and a tail formed by an inverted acrobat wearing a helmet with hair extensions!

Finally, the elephant crouches to allow the band dismount along a purpose-built gangplank before returning to the B stage and sinking once more into the 1.8m high B stage – all in space of one song.

The Big Top

Brilliant Stages supplied the 15m x 23m structure beneath the scarlet big top which, with a full load of moving lights and cabling, weighed in at 8 tons and devised a track system for the tent coverings enabling a quick ‘roman blind’ movement to partially reveal the set beneath and a series of controlled reveals to show an inner frame of ‘cargo netting’ - made of profile cut canvas to keep the weight to a minimum.

The tent was then raised 90° to a vertical position, on two hinges weighing 2.5tons each, to form a surround for the central video screen. “When designing the hinge system for this lift, we had to calculate the wind load and devise a method of controlling the framework as it reached the point of zero resistance in the vertical position,” says Brilliant Stages Project Manager for the event, Clay Brock. “This was a huge engineering point which we solved using a catcher arm to take the load.”

The Ringmaster Puppet

The show finale saw the deployment of a giant Ringmaster Puppet rise from the back of the main stage out of a 2m deep pit. Constructed around a purpose-built lift, the 10m wide, 4.5ton structure rises 11.5m high and tracks forward 2.7m whilst the head and shoulders thrust forward a further 2.4m on a multi-axis hydraulic ram attached at the base of the neck. Twin hydraulics, operated by two puppeteers located in the chest cavity, turn the shoulders and enable the 3m head – which acts as a video screen - to nod up and down and turn left and right.

The Take That Circus Live 2009 tour played to over 1,080,000 fans in Sunderland, Coventry, Dublin, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, London.

Project Manager, Clay Brock: “It was technically a very challenging show which the guys at Brilliant Stages warned me about.

“The biggest challenge was that a set of this magnitude would be a 4/5 month build under normal circumstances. We had to condense it into 11 weeks!”