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Fulton Boiler Works - Helps Create Stage Fright For Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds Musical

Fulton Boiler Works has supplied an Electric Flash Steam (EFS) boiler to Wiltshire-based special effects designers Back Stage Technologies, which is using steam to create simulated flames and light beams for Jeff Wayne’s live stage musical version of the sci-fi classic 'War of the Worlds'.
Back Stage Technologies (BSTE) specialises in repeatable special effects for theme parks, concerts and general entertainment applications and has received particular notoriety for its work in cryogenics and simulated flame systems.
Using specialist lighting effects with steam from Fulton’s modified 36kW EFS boiler, BSTE has created an effect that appears to fill the stage with flames. The special effects system is also used to create a ray gun effect that fires into the audience from a Martian fighting machine that it is lowered onto the stage during the performance.
The reconditioned boiler, which was originally a 48kW EFS, was heavily modified by Fulton to enable it to be taken on tour and used at venues with only a 36 amp 3-phase electrical supply. A regulator was also fitted to reduce pressure from 10 bar to just ½ bar and the boiler’s fourth element was adapted to be used for backup purposes.
BSTE’s patented flame effect was originally designed five years ago as a static system for use in the stage adaptation of The Lion King – performed at the Disneyland Resort Paris – where one scene required the stage to burst into flames whilst the actors remained on set. This had obvious health and safety implications and the resort would not allow real flames close to the actors or audience, so BSTE was asked to design a solution.
The system uses a combination of high volumes of low-pressure steam, lights and fans to simulate flames and, because it is flush-fitted, actors are able to walk across the stage without being tripped. A low-pressure laminate sheet of steam is created as required that is then lit with flame-coloured lighting and agitated by fans to give its random and extremely realistic flame-like appearance.
Commenting on its use in the War of the Worlds musical tour, BSTE’s creative director John Coller says: “We were approached by Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ to create a flame effect for the show, which was touring Australia, New Zealand and the UK. With health and safety an issue for most venues, the use of real flames and even the storage of propane gas was not allowed, so we opted to re-design the static version of the flame effect system used in Paris, to be moveable from venue to venue.”
In one scene, a Martian fighting machine is lowered from the ceiling to land on the stage. It then fires a ray into the audience, at which point the stage appears to burst into flames. The flame effect envelops the whole of the front of the stage at heights varying from one to five feet.
“Each effect runs for approximately two to three minutes every half hour, so Fulton’s EFS was perfect for the job.” says John. “Not only does the boiler have a small footprint that makes it ideal for touring, it also raises high-levels of steam over very short periods allowing it to be recharged and ready for the next scene.”
He adds that besides being fundamental in BSTE’s decision to opt for a reconditioned boiler, Fulton Boiler Works was heavily involved from the very start of the system’s design process. From sizing and specifications for the EFS, modifying it for use with the system, and arranging for it to be certified for use in Australia and New Zealand by one of their dealers.
Fulton’s fully-automatic EFS range is quiet, clean and efficient, and is protected with a fail-safe control system to ensure trouble free operation. The EFS range is designed specifically to deliver short period/high demand steam loads at steady pressures.
To date, Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ stage musical has toured New Zealand and Australia as well as over fifteen sell-out venues in the UK including the O2 Arena.

E-mail: bareham@fulton.com


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