Dragone – TERHAL

TERHAL – Diriyah 2023

A world-first special effect for a cultural spectacular in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Dragone Logo

Client: Dragone

Project – Terhal by Dragone

Year: 2023

The Brief:

‘Terhal’, meaning ‘travelling’, was the name given to this theatrical collaboration between the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Dragone, an international cultural creation and experience design company. In the first production of its kind in the Kingdom, this original, live spectacular with a cast of over 120 artists, took place in Diriyah in a new purpose-built theatre.

In the months leading up to the opening in March 2023, the Luminous team worked closely with Dragone’s creative and technical teams to provide our expert SFX consultancy that would turn their concepts into show-ready hardware. The calibre of this ground-breaking brief ensured we were all excited and determined to support Dragone on our mutual quest to produce and deliver a world-first special effect.

Intrinsic to the production and a key scenic and SFX element was the sand that would be distributed in a stunning circular formation around a vast 28-metre-wide stage. As a stage special effect, sand aeration had never been achieved on such a large scale in a production. This was our world first. The inspiration for the Dragone team, the phenomenon of the sand geysers that occur naturally in the desert and which they wanted to replicate. These fountains of sand that shoot dramatically, but organically from the desert floor are often associated with seismic activity. To add to the spectacular, the creative team also specified a true-to-life rain effect that would be staged in the centre of the auditorium.

The Challenge:

There were several challenges associated with this project. First and foremost, the sheer scale of the air that was required to create the sand aeration effect without disrupting any elements of the show was unprecedented. We also had to be mindful of the audio levels in the auditorium and create a practical solution that could be deployed during busy in/out loads. On top of that, the four air distribution systems (ADS) had to serve 15 areas of sand aeration on stage simultaneously – and had to be housed in a designated location that was out of sight and earshot.

All these technical and practical challenges called for an innovative approach underpinned by specialist expertise – thankfully this is exactly what the Luminous team excels at.

Early in the planning process, Edwin Samkin, SFX designer and Luminous Co-Founder, worked with Dragone’s creative team to define precisely what its objectives were and how best to navigate the fast-moving schedule. Central to our production strategy was the sand aeration effect; the sand had to behave like a liquid and, instantaneously, be transformed back into a solid surface that would be capable of holding the weight of a performer. Proving this incredible effect could be achieved on such a grand scale was critical – after a successful period of research and development and field testing followed, we then set about fabricating the full-scale solution.

The main poster for the Dragone TERHAL show

The Solution:

A total of 11 tonnes of sand were housed in 15 sand aeration modules (SAM) that were robust, but lightweight and contained the requisite specialised pipework. Each module was sunk into the stage and, to make the sand perform, we engineered four ADSs, which were modular in design and could be transported into position easily. These ADSs would feed the hidden SAMs via 1.1km of high-pressure hosing that was routed away from the stage and fed by bespoke air compressors. The result was a mechanism that would deliver exceptionally low noise levels and generate all the compressed air required to run the show, quietly and efficiently.

To complement our sand aeration effect, the Dragone team placed a realistic rain effect in the centre of the stage to demonstrate the restorative effect of rain in an arid region. The falling rain was to ‘wash’ a water-soluble costume from the performers below it. To bring these effects to life, our HYDRA-TECH digital rain system was rigged into a circular formation and managed by a dedicated show controller.

The show was a phenomenal success and Luminious’ cutting-edge SFX production is likely to serve as an exemplar for future experiential events for many years to come.

“This show and its production was something of a mountain that only the bravest were willing to take on,” said Karl Jenkins, Show Director, A Loud Minority. “Only the world’s best can achieve something of this scale. We’re incredibly proud of what we were able to pull together in such a short timeframe.”

If you’d like more information about Luminous custom special effects, please get in touch. You can also read about our water effects, including our renowned HYDRA-TECH Digital Rain System.