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Birmingham Royal Ballet performs Swan Lake as part of the Virginia Arts Festival this weekend, Friday 7-Sunday 9 May. The Company arrived in Virginia this week, allowing a few days to shake off their jet-lag and prepare the production.

Lighting Director Johnny Westall-Eyre wrote us a few words about what they’ve been up to so far:

Greetings from the US of A. The Birmingham Royal Ballet tour here is going really well, we have started the fit up and everything is going swimmingly. Most of the crew guys are familiar to us from our last visit and there was a lot of big back slapping hugs when we all met up again.

It is a lovely space which is well looked after and makes our fit up go as well as we could hope. The weather is unseasonably hot, we had temperatures of 88*F on Saturday, 91* F on Sunday with high humidity but today the sky is a little cloudy as the storm brews. Shirt sleeves for everyone as it is only dropping to 70* at night!

The dancers have arrived now and the wardrobe staff have just started work at the theatre. Nearly everyone is waking at between 04:00 and 06:00 due to the 5 hour time difference but most people are OK after the flight. We have had some beautiful sunsets and I have attached a pic of the USS Wisconsin which is one of the sights of Norfolk. It’s at the end of one of the main streets here in town, as if somebody just parked it there by accident.

One of the first things we did on Saturday was take a stroll down the – usually – quiet main street where we stumbled across a NATO parade, part of the VAF, complete with floats from Lithuania, Norway (a Viking boat), Italy (Ferraris) Sweden, Romania etc and finished up with the UK entry, an open top red London bus and a pipe and drum band playing ‘Flower of Scotland’! The US had 6 ‘sheriffs’ riding piebald horses and some fantastic marching majorettes.

Will write again when we actually do some Ballet!


Johnny Westall-Eyre.


‘Hi all, thought I would give you a Lighting angle on working here.


‘We are sat in the land of ‘later’ trying to get the General rehearsal started.

‘The LX department are totally in local hands, as it is not our own rig we are using, but locally sourced kit with an infinite variety of fluffy wires hanging out. I instructed Diana [Childs, Senior Stage Manager] to let the dancers know not to stand on any cables or touch any booms – they quite often roll their feet on our mains cables to ease sore arches. Not here, too risky.

‘We had a lamp out on a lighting bridge so the local techy climbed on to it 25 ft up in the air and started plugging stuff in to find the fault. Unbelievably dangerous, we responded appropriately by all taking a picture.

‘Today we have had the usual list: control room locked and man with key not here; the computerised flying system crashed again with the scenery half way in and we had to wait an hour for those responsible to arrive and fix it again; organ effect in the show not being heard because the sound man has left, taken his equipment away AND locked the control room; follow spots still at lunch and also locked out; no heating on stage; wardrobe sockets blowing up; the absent sound guy only turning up in order to put the orchestra foldback through the front of house PA with a bit of reverb (try dancing to the echoey Chas and Dave style Prokofiev) and the lighting desk losing power.

‘At least the coach driver brought us to the right building this morning. Oh and Paul Murphy is now singing the missing instrument parts and shouting ‘4! 4!’ at the orchestra!

‘It is, without a doubt a special challenge. We may just be able to open R&J!


Johnny Westall-Eyre’

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