Stepping Out Beyond the Fringe at Edinburgh Assembly Rooms

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A challenging commission to provide robust yet versatile staging at a key venue for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival presented Mainstage with a major showcase opportunity.

The 18th Century Edinburgh Assembly Rooms in George Street underwent a massive transformation last year to create modern, people-friendly spaces in an historic building which oozes character and beauty in time for the 2012 Festival.

Mainstage were asked to provide the Assembly Rooms, which first opened in 1787, with 90 square metres of Cameo demountable staging.

The Assembly Rooms are one of the largest of the Edinburgh Fringe venues and the Cameo stage has already been put to very challenging use.

And this year, with legions of stand-up comedians, tour buses full of folk acts, a lobby full of politicians and commentators, together with brass bands, theatre groups, dance companies and other performers lined up, the Assembly Rooms wanted to offer extended staging.

So, when it came to choosing a demountable stage for this high profile venue the architects chose Mainstage’s Cameo system.

Cameo offered everything necessary for working in a very difficult space, and, as the manufacturer, Mainstage were prepared to go ‘beyond the fringe’ to exceed expectations.

“Balancing the restrictions of an 18th Century space against modern demands required many complex issues to be resolved,” explains Mainstage Managing Director Mike Sweetland.

“As part of the transformation, the management team at the Assembly Rooms wanted something extremely flexible, multi-purpose, highly durable and, at the same time, quick and easy to erect and dismantle to make way for other activities on the floor space.”

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Mainstage Ltd, one of the UK’s top providers of portable staging, embraced the challenge.

Although bigger is generally stronger, because there was simply not enough room to store bulky sections, the dilemma was to find a product that could cope with international ballet, rock bands and symphony orchestras yet stack away into a small cupboard.

Because Heavy Duty Cameo is only 76mm thick without legs, the entire stock of stage could be stored in a space not much larger than that taken up by two double beds.

And despite its thin profile the Cameo can carry phenomenal loads, and due to the foam backing, it is acoustically sound and as solid as a platform made from oak planks.

The Mainstage cable grommet cuts out trip hazard issues experienced with other commercially available products because it has interchangeable inserts.

While one insert allows the grommet to be closed off completely, making it stiletto heel friendly, others open it sufficiently to allow anything from a single microphone cable to a very substantial multicore to pass through the stage.

Lighting people are pleased as the steelwork is powder coated with a scratch resistant ultra matt black finish.

With so many performances each day of the festival it is essential that the stage goes up and down quickly. Cameo achieves this with ease.

A stage 13.5 metres wide and 6 metres deep can be erected in less than 30 minutes. The leg lock system allows a leg to be inserted and locked off in seconds whilst a single technician can handle a 2×1 metre deck on his/her own.

And the Cameo wheelchair ramp is made using standard decks with the addition of a Cameo ‘Feather’ piece, special legs and guard rails.  This makes it economical in terms of budget and very easy to store.