Yesterday afternoon, Cheese on Toast was invited, with other luminaries, to the launch of the new “Theatre Mode” at Vector.
We were greeted at the front doors with refreshments and milled in the foyer – a bit abuzz because, not only were we there to check out this new fangled “Theatre Mode” but word was that a special announcement would be made by Mr Brent Eccles of a forthcoming show – the first to use this new Vector layout.
We were ushered into the Tuning Fork bar where we were given a bit of background by Stuart Clumpas from Vector Arena. he explained that his background was that of running venues and being a tour promoter back in Scotland; he likened some of his experience of Scotland being the ‘little brother’ of England in getting shows touring there to what we sometimes experience here in New Zealand and acts touring Australia. All too often New Zealand is put in the ‘too hard basket’ and we miss out.
Another reason we miss out though, is appropriate venue availability. Cheese on Toast still laments the loss of The St James – (and strongly supports the movement to have it’s return to glory). But, anecdotally, I’ve heard NZ has missed shows simply because the only available appropriate sized venues, eg The Civic or Town Hall were already booked with ongoing theatre shows at the times.
Stuart explained that he and his team have worked out a way of making Vector Arena work as a smaller venue – a space to accommodate a much more intimate show – and this is why we have assembled – to check out what it’ll look like. I got a really good vibe off Stuart – he seemed like a guy passionate about putting on the very best possible shows and someone who genuinely gives a f–k. He explained that he was very keen to differentiate the “Theatre Mode” from normal ‘big’ shows at Vector – obviously if a punter see’s that an artist they would normally associate to a smaller space is playing at an “arena” they might be skeptical regarding the sound and general vibe of the show – and, he assured us, with Theatre Mode, these concerns have been fully addressed.
It was time for the big reveal – and he walked us through into the space. I was, hand-on-heart, blown away – I could hardly recognize the space – I was very impressed by the lay out. Instead of pushing the audience up to the stage at the end of the arena, they had brought the stage closer to the back and set out chairs on the floor; the seats on the sides angled to face the stage. The normal ‘arena’ seats created a kind of ‘circle’. Stuart explained one option would be, if ticket sales exceeded initial expectations would be to create ‘the gods’ seating going further up and back, or move the stage back a few metres and add further seats in the stalls at the back – or a combination of the two.
Speaking of the stage, we were ushered up on to the stage too, to get a feel for how it’d be for the artist. It really felt intimate up there – you could see every seat in the house and you could tell, therefore, that there really was no such thing as a “bad seat”. Stuart explained that the PA and lighting would be appropriately configured for the new mode as well. Basically, they have really created a totally different and new space. If you had blind-folded me, spun me around a few times and bundled me into the back of a van and drove me there – only to remove the blindfold when inside I swear I wouldn’t know I was at Vector.
I asked Stuart if Theatre Mode would always be 100% seated. He said it would be but that they also plan to work on the “Free-flow” mode that they have started to experiment with for other shows like New Order at the beginning of the year – where no seats were allocated, the stage moved forward and the stalls being GA standing.
It was exciting to hear a venue operator being so flexible and keen to make shows happen and work. With Theatre Mode and the increased use of Free Flow mode, Vector could easily be used to house many more shows in the future that are just too big for Powerstation, for example.