The new tour from Beyoncé and Jay Z is an evolution of the 'On the Run' brand. OTR II is the latest instalment. STUFISH worked closely with the artists and their creative teams to develop the stage design for the show.
Photos copyright www.beyonce.com
Conceptually, the design is based on the narrative of duality and separation. The divide between the couple is expressed with 2 catwalks that extend into the audience. This allows the artists to address different parts of the audience and perform music that is deeply personal and about the other without sharing the same stage space. Throughout the story of the show, there are movie interstitials that show the development of the story. These play out on a massive unobstructed video screen that encapsulates the theatrical movie.
The video screen at first seems simple and solid. When the audience walks into the stadium, the giant screen dominates the picture. There is a sense that something magical is captured inside and that there is a world beyond the surface. As the show unfolds, the screen reveals itself to be kinetic and transparent. It can separate to create different entrances and apertures. The largest opening reveals a central construction called the ‘performer wall’. This 4 storey high structure allows performers to appear at any of the 20 smaller openings to create a kinetic sculpture. Whether populated by the 26 person vertical orchestra, the 17 dancers, the artists themselves or filled with light and special effects, the performer wall is backed by a further video screen that creates ever changing environments for the performance. These environments are able to transform to create different locations including a tower block, portraits, film reel, landscape and sky. Used together with the main screen and the performers to create a more layered and sculptural human backdrop to the stage, the double layer of video content creates a world within the set that is very dimensional. The spectacular effects allow the audience to understand the scale of the performers and energy from the band and dancers immersed within the video content.
Along the front of the performer wall there is a floating platform that climbs up the centre to allow the artists to be revealed from any level of the structure and rise or descend to stage level.
The main stage and catwalks create a vast terrain for performers to be revealed, perform and create vignettes. The stage is the full width of the stadium and extends deep into the audience. The space between the 2 catwalks contains a special experience called "Club Carter". The experience in Club Carter is like no other show out there. Surrounded by these long catwalks the audience in the centre become the focus of the energy from the whole stadium. They are wrapped within the performance and get to be the closest to the performance at the key moments of the show.
Within the stage surface there are multiple pop up lifts to allow entrances from various areas of the stage. A series of treadmills in the catwalks allow performers to glide along the stages.
As the narrative plays out, the divide and separation turns to reconciliation. This scenically culminates when the front half of the stage detaches, rises up and then tracks over the audience to the ends of the catwalks. Floating over half the length of the stadium, this massive and heavy machine, bridges the divide and unites the audience and allows the story to be completed. The artists float over the audience allowing them to connect to all of the stadium and at all heights. The special effects built into the machine make it look like they are riding a cloud. Strobe lighting and smoke effects make the space underneath like an immersive rave making the crowd become almost tribal and feel euphoric.
The spectacular visuals and use of Imag in the main video screen together with the dynamic staging creates an immersive experience for all of the audience that get to watch as this spectacular production unfolds. The size of the screen, the width of the stage and the depth of the catwalks allow everyone in the audience to feel close to the performance in some way. They all have a great view and the way that the show uses the stages, catwalks, performer wall and the kinetic stage means that the audience is constantly excited by what they will see next.
This live show is a hybrid that feels part opera, part concert, part theatre, part cinematic live movie, part dance show, part art installation. The audience are drawn to so many different elements throughout this show that it keeps them constantly guessing. This emotional story throughout the show uses the Stufish stage design as the core landscape for horizontal and vertical movement. This is unusual for a live show and pushes the limits of the experience for the audience to new levels, which serves to complement the music and performance. This show is a must see genre defining moment in live music and spectacle.