Spitfires On Stage

Designing The Shadow Factory

How do you represent both the mechanics of flight and the sinister beauty of a Spitfire on stage?

This was the design challenge taken up by 59 Productions on The Shadow Factory – the inaugural show at the Nuffield Southampton Theatre’s brand new “NST City” venue in the heart of Southampton.

The answer: a combination of projection, sound, movement and a radical new deployment of TAIT Towers’ Nano Winches, combined by 59’s designers into a programmable kinetic sculpture, incorporating custom LED fixtures made by LED Creative.

59 has conceived a dynamic design solution utilising 36 small and extremely fast “Nano Winches”, developed by TAIT Towers. These single-axis movement devices are connected in groups of three to pairs of lighting bars, all controlled via a central computerised system, with the complex movements programmed via a lighting desk. Augmented by light and projection, the resulting ‘kinetic sculpture’ physically describes the mechanisms of powered flight and the organic, fluid beauty of a bird on the wing.

Technology meets art in order to illustrate the concept of flight, to describe architectural locations, and to represent the devastation of the second World War.


A world premiere to open Southampton’s brand new theatre

NST City,

Autumn 1940. The Battle of Britain rages.

Southampton is home to our only hope of victory: the Spitfire. But when the Luftwaffe drops 2,300 bombs in three devastating raids, the city goes up in flames and the Woolston Supermarine Spitfire factory is destroyed. From the ashes, a story of chaos, courage and community spirit emerges.

Jackie is the third generation of Dimmock at her family-run laundry. Polly is the first and only draughtswoman in the Spitfire design office. How will each woman forge her own path in this evolving landscape?

One of Britain’s greatest living playwrights, Hampshire-born Howard Brenton, (Anne Boleyn, Shakespeare’s Globe; Pravda, National Theatre) tells the remarkable and little known story of how Southampton stepped up when the chips were down.

59 Productions worked with Nuffield Southampton Theatres to design the set, lighting, projections and costumes for this spectacular world premiere which opened Southampton’s brand new theatre, NST City in February 2018.


“Sophisticated visual technology from 59 Productions.”

The Guardian

“The Nuffield gets to show off all the new toys that 59 Productions have given [it]. Crucially, they all support and expand the storytelling. Best of all is the rig of mobile lighting strips above the stage, so adaptable they can even buckle and swoop to emulate a Spitfire in flight.”

The Times

“History on a human scale”

Financial Times

“Nano winches create a balletic display of undulating neon tubes above the stage… 59 Productions’ slick video projections superimpose moving, zooming aerial maps onto the thrust stage’s vast slab of concrete, constantly re-framing daily lives as strategic targets.”

The Stage

“Commanding, constantly changing visuals”

The Telegraph

“The production by 59 Productions, who are also responsible for the video elements of the 2012 Olympic Ceremony, I think is spectacular…the cast play out on a stage which has projected images on it…there’s this brilliant set of lighting bars above the stage which reconfigure themselves…at one stage they’re a sort of proscenium of a Palladian house, at another they become an aeroplane, a Spitfire itself, which is a really heartstopping moment. There is so much going on here which is absolutely commendable.”

Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4



Howard Brenton


Samuel Hodges


59 Productions

Sound Designers & Composers

Max and Ben Ringham


Project Director

Leo Warner

Set Designer

Jenny Melville

Video Designer

Akhila Krishnan

Lighting Designer

Matt Daw

Costume Designer

Molly Einchcomb


Ollie Hester

Associate Video Designer

Iain Syme

Assistant Designer

Hannah Fasching

Assistant Set Designer

Claudia Fragoso


Georgia Clegg, Emily Howells, Nicol Scott, Lawrence Watson

Design Team

Dale Croft, Gareth Damian Martin, Matthew Taylor

Video System Designer

Max Spielbichler

Design Intern

Felix Green