When updating historical buildings with outstanding architecture you need to be careful to maintain the original’s form and function. Sweden’s national stage for spoken drama, commonly known as ‘Dramaten’, uses expertly installed and hidden lift tables to increase safety, logistics and flexibility for everyone.

The Royal Dramatic Theatre, founded in 1788, is Sweden’s national stage for spoken drama. Approximately one thousand shows are put on annually on either of the theatre’s five running stages. Dramaten is known for its outstanding architecture and many famous actors were trained here; Greta Garbo, Max von Sydow and Ingrid Bergman to name a few.

Cleverly concealed lift table doubling as pavement
Cleverly concealed lift table doubling as pavement

“You can’t help but be drawn in by the surroundings and you can tell the location is one of great importance,” says Daniel Boll, who manages the machinery at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. “You need to be aware of history and practice caution when updating or making changes to historical buildings. Our mission is always to update and refine safely without losing the tradition, style or identity of the original architecture,” Daniel states clearly.

One such project with many aspects to consider was when Dramaten set out to achieve an efficient lifting and loading solution without negatively impacting the building or how it presents visually. Thankfully, with world-class lift tables and help from experts at Marco, it could be achieved. The final solution is as exciting as it is impressive.

An Invisible Solution with a Giant Hole in the Wall

Moving scenography and theatre props was never an issue when everything was constructed right next to the stage and could easily be transported in parts. Meeting the needs of a world-class theatre production today, with multiple stages, is slightly more complicated. Productions need a wide variety of props and other materials to be made elsewhere, and the pieces are often too large for conventional transportation, not to mention fit through a regular door. To accommodate the lifting solution and not disturb the visual experience a massive piece of the external wall was carefully cut out and mounted on hinges. A unique and complex task, and now, once completed, architects and city planners now travel from far away to witness the impressive solution.

Ready for lifting and transporting once the concealed wall on hinges is opened
Ready for lifting and transporting once the concealed wall on hinges is opened

A Safe Solution for Everyone

Safety is always a top priority but even more so with a project extending out into the street. If any of the edges were to protrude too far someone could trip, or worse, even though they are not permitted, fall on their electric scooter. Therefore, the solution needed to be completely level and due to it being visible from the outside, completely concealed when not in use in order not to disturb the building’s visual appeal. A comprehensive risk assessment was carried out for staff, suppliers and for the general public on street level. In addition to extremely tight tolerances of the lift table to ensure a gapless pavement the upper-level doors can only be opened when the table is in the correct position and all safety gates are locked.

“Through great collaboration with Marco we have built a fool-proof and efficient lifting solution that protects everyone at the theatre, contractors and the general public alike. Safety first, always, even when working with world-class architecture,” Daniel adds.

A rare view of the inner workings behind the stage – Lift tables are used to grant productions safe lifting solutions and greater flexibility
A rare view of the inner workings behind the stage – Lift tables are used to grant productions safe lifting solutions and greater flexibility

More Flexible Stages and Looking to the Future

Even though lift tables are most commonly associated with efficient and safe lifting there are many other uses and advantages as well. The Royal Dramatic Theatres stages also use lift tables to add flexibility to their productions. “For example, if we only have a few people on stage, we can lower it and place chairs on it to create a more intimate setting and bring more visitors into the salon. Or we can create a larger stage or even space for an orchestra pit. In short, with lift tables we get a better and more flexible solution,” Daniel adds.

Looking ahead, past the pandemic, Daniel sees a bright future. Dramaten is ecstatic to have visitors again and looking forward to even more improvements in the future. Even when working with classic architecture and trying to maintain the old, lifting solutions will always be a part of the culture, at Dramaten and elsewhere. “Lifting props, people and creating illusions of weightlessness have always been part of theatre, the difference is that today we can do it safely and without compromising on visual fidelity,” Daniel says in summary.

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