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Raising the platforms in-the-round

In October 2022, our Manchester branch was contacted by Restoke, an arts organisation in Stoke-on-Trent, about staging for their upcoming production “The Lotus Eaters” – Episode One of “The Odyssey”, a nationwide Public Acts production led by the National Theatre (NT).

Restoke are based in the historic Old Town Hall Fenton in Stoke-On-Trent. The stunning vaulted ceiling of the upstairs ballroom which has been hidden from view for the past 50 years and has now been revealed and restored to its former glory. Restoke were keen to stage the production in-the-round with the audience standing on raised platforms around the outside of the ballroom. Local scaffolding companies weren’t able to help, so they asked their partners at the National Theatre (NT) for advice.

NT Production and Technical Director Paul Handley knew that Steeldeck would be the right company to provide a solution.

Our Project Manager Mike Ager looked at some initial ideas and costs, and then followed up with a site visit. We looked at the options available for deck heights that worked for the production, whilst reducing the amount of labour and equipment to keep the cost of the project within budget. A central section of the platform was raised with an opening underneath to give clear access to a fire exit, as well as elevating chorus members above the audience. Over the months leading up to the production, we updated our original design with additional platforms as acting areas, as well as a simple shelf at ground level which could be used as ‘perch’ seating for extra audience.

Hundreds of community members and professional artists will have participated in the five-part production at venues across the country, ending with Episode 5 “The Underworld” in the Olivier Theatre London in August 2023.

Our final design made excellent use of the historic space and allowed for an innovative staging of the production, and Restoke were delighted with the result as were we.