Entec delivers a full production service to popular comedy event

For the last three years, Entec has been proud to support the annual Roar With Laughter comedy galas at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo, organised by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to raise funds for endangered wildlife. This year, the company provided a full production design service, comprising sound, lighting, video and crew to facilitate a show that starred comedians Dara O’Briain, Rob Deering, Seann Walsh, Aisling Bea, Alan Davies, Imran Yusuf and Kevin Eldo, contributing to the £300,000+ that the events have so far raised and directly ploughed back into conservation.

James Wren, ZSL’s fund raising director, explained the background to the show: “ZSL works in over 50 countries around the world and our ultimate goal is to protect wildlife and their habitats. That is quite a brief to fulfil and we have to raise a lot of money to do that work. Historically, we used to rely on raising funds directly through the two zoos we operate, in London and Whipsnade, but there was a need for us to branch out further.

“We started Roar With Laughter five years ago. One of our staff used to work in comedy before she joined ZSL and her connections inspired us to start working with some of these acts who generously donated their time. As well as the annual Apollo shows we also host smaller events at ZSL London Zoo which help to boost our funds.”

Entec’s crew – sound engineer Maurizio Schiavi, lighting/video designer Will Wright and lighting technicians Simon Chandler-Honnor and Paddy Farr – worked alongside ZSL staff from both zoos who kindly volunteered their time.

“It’s been a case of harnessing the skills we have within our organisation and getting the best out of people,” explained Wren. “Andrea Dempsey was a professional stage manager before she joined us so we’re grateful to her for reprising that role. Ali Corbett is our internal special events manager and Jessica Carter works with her in the special events team, and they are supported by a strong team from the charity.

“We are blessed to have benefitted from Entec’s experience and resources for the three most recent events, and in the absence of our own dedicated technical production manager, their crew cover that function very skilfully.”


Having previous experience of ZSL events gave Will Wright the essential know-how required to design both the lighting and video for this year’s gala. “Ali Corbett was my main go-to person from the outset,” he said. “I think ZSL have always been happy with what we’ve done but they wanted to achieve a different look this year with more brand awareness, especially in the ‘dead spot’ below the screen, hence the two large styrofoam ZSL logos that dominated the stage which I up-lit with ChromaQ ColorForce 72 LED battens, the colour scheme being very important from a corporate perspective.”

A row of six Thomas M16 tungsten battens lined the front lip of the stage. “If people are taking photos or there’s an internal corporate video being shot, having these battens on just slightly with a chocolate gel really helps to avoid the chin shadow that performers hate,” explained Wright.

Entec delivers a full production service to ZSL

PixelPar 44s were positioned along the back in front of Entec’s starcloth to shoot vertical beams up the back of the drape. They worked in combination with overhead colour chases from 10 Martin MAC Axiom Hybrid fixtures, which are new to Entec’s inventory and came directly from The Australian Pink Floyd Show’s latest tour.

Said Wright: “The Axiom hit the market this summer so it’s still hot news. It uses a 440W Osram short-arc discharge lamp and gives you beam, spot and wash possibilities within one fairly lightweight [under 55lbs] unit. Being a comedy show, I didn’t have the chance to enjoy the Axiom’s full potential, but I’ve since used it on another Entec job – a Melanie Martinez show in London – and I have to say that although it’s comparable with a similar [Italian] fixture, it very much outperforms it.”

Martin MAC Aura XBs were rigged on the front truss for general wash. “The Aura is a cracking fixture with very pleasant CTO,” Wright commented, “and it’s especially good as a front light. It’s a tiny unit but with eight of them you can easily cover the Apollo stage.”

Controlled by the same Avolites Tiger Touch II console employed for lighting, the 16:9 format video content – mostly wildlife stills and appeal clips, interspersed with fund raising prompts and event branding – was run on Resolume, the VJ programme that was recently embraced by Niall Hannell for the Feeder tour. “I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with Resolume and fancied trying something different. It’s a different way of working but very effective,” said Wright, who specified a pair of Barco CLM R10+ 10K projectors with a 20ft x 11ft screen.


Receiving signals from the on-stage SD Rack, engineer Maurizio Schiavi created the FOH and monitor mixes on the venue’s SD11 console, currently the smallest and most compact in DiGiCo range, yet still a powerful tool in the right hands. Sound was fed to the house L’Acoustics K2 line array through the Apollo’s installed patch panels, by-passing the need for multicore.

Powered by d&b D80 amplification, two d&b M4 floor wedges were supplemented by a pair of d&b E8 loudspeakers in side fill positions to cover the corners of the stage. “Seann Walsh moves around a lot when he’s performing, so having those side fills really helped him,” commented Schiavi, adding: “That guy really owns the stage and he’s got fantastic mic technique.”

As well as using Sennheiser SKM 5200-UHF handheld transmitters and a wired Shure SM58 for the ‘voice of God’, the client also asked Entec to supply headworn lavalier microphones, so a couple of theatre-standard DPA 4080 models were included in the package as alternatives for some of the acts.

Frequency co-ordination was handled by the Shure Axient AXT600 Spectrum Manager in conjunction with Wireless Workbench control software – a combination that has Schiavi’s seal of approval. “It’s quite normal for me to scan the available wireless frequencies with Axient as soon as I arrive at a venue. That area of London is quite complicated when it comes to RF and the software helped me choose a number of back-up channels, so that I could inform Jonny Clark [Entec’s head of sound] who licensed the frequencies for the day.”

Radial J48 DI boxes were included in the audio package to cater for the comedians – Rob Deering and Kevin Elton – who played guitars as part of their act.

“It was a straightforward gig for us on a technical level, really,” said Schiavi. “Our client presented us with a CD containing music stings for each comedian’s entrance and exit, and I triggered each cue from QLab on my laptop. The other playback element to take care of was the soundtrack audio from the charity appeal VT which I received directly from Will’s server.”

Schiavi continued: “Of course, the input count was very low due to the nature of the event,” said Schiavi. “Most of the effort was concentrated on walking the room with a microphone and adjusting the system’s EQ and the SD11’s channel EQs to ensure that speech intelligibility was as good as possible. It was one of those events where it really all came together on the day of the show. With the right people involved and the right attitude all round, it all went tremendously smoothly and everybody delivered a great performance.”

So far, none of the Roar With Laughter events have been televised although James Wren hopes that this will be addressed in time. He said: “It would be great to do a TV fund raiser for wildlife. At the moment there are so many programmes involving animals, like ‘Planet Earth’, that drive awareness massively but what we need is that hook to encourage donations so that we can protect endangered species, and do it with a sense of urgency.”

Photography by Mark Cunningham