2007

Listed in order, just scroll down to find them – Bouncers & Shakers / A Number / Our Country’s Good / Splendour / American Buffalo / Agape’s Excess / Bone

‘Bouncers’ and ‘Shakers’ are a pair of plays – the first by John Godber and the second written with his wife Jane Thornton. We put them on in November, as a double-bill on the same evening.

Designing the lighting on both plays was an interesting exercise, and as ‘Bouncers’ is set in (and outside) a nightclub, I decided to use a blue-green and a reddish magenta as dominant colours, to evoke the mercury floodlighting outside the club and the stage lighting inside.

Mark Green directed ‘Bouncers, and Louise Gregory directed ‘Shakers’. Louise’s play is set in a cocktail lounge, with four waitresses mirroring the four bouncers in Mark’s production.

In both plays, the four actors take on other roles, such as customers or hairdressers. Sometimes they come forward into a spotlight to give us their own personal story.

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I’m a great fan of Caryl Churchill’s work, so when I got the opportunity to direct ‘A Number’ in September I jumped at the chance. It’s about cloning; a father puts his infant son into care, and has his tissue cloned to produce a new son in his place. But the scientists clone – a number – of the boys, and years later the truth comes out. The original son isn’t happy – as you can see . . .

I designed the set to be bounded by a double helix, as a representation of the DNA that’s at the base of the science of cloning. All the action took place within this space. Here’s the father with one of the cloned sons.

‘A Number’ is a two-handed piece, with one actor as the father and the second playing the original son and two of his clones. They are obviously genetically identical, but they will have differed in their upbringing and life experiences. Nature versus Nurture. The actor playing the cloned sons had to change costume between each scene, then take on a completely different persona.

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Mark Wilson directed ‘Our Country’s Good’ as New Venture’s July production. Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play is set in Eastern Australia in the days of Transportation, and he produced some powerful scenes of the brutal treatment of the convicts.

One of the soldier guards is trying to improve the lives of the prisoners by putting on a play, but his humanitarian project is attacked by the other officers.

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Lighting ‘Splendour’ was a fun challenge. Abi Morgan’s play is set in the Dictator’s villa of an unnamed country, where a journalist waits for a photo opportunity with the Great Man. But the country is in the throes of a revolution, and the Dictator has not returned from the city – perhaps he’s already dead.

Along with the journalist, there are the Dictator’s wife, her best friend, and a kleptomaniac Interpreter. As the women wait, afternoon becomes nightfall, and the fires and explosions from the city become visible through the window.

John Norris’ direction of our June production had to portray the play’s jumps and disconnects in the passing of time, and my lighting had to change the mood as needed. We were even able to produce the brighter flashes of far-off explosions.

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David Mamet’s ‘American Buffalo’ is about the planned theft of a valuable gold coin, the American Buffalo of the title – one ounce of 24 carat gold, featuring a Native American head on the obverse and a buffalo on the reverse. James Newton directed this three-hander as NVT’s May offering.

The robbery never actually takes place, because Don, Teach and Bob fall out. They argue about how to carry out the heist, and also about friendship and loyalty.

My lighting had to evoke the sleazy interior of Don’s junk shop – he’s mainly a fence of stolen goods. It’s set in a basement space with light filtering down from the street.

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‘Agape’s Excess’ is about online relationships. Robert Hamilton’s play features two women who find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into intimacy – while physically separated by the distance between their computers. Helen Caton’s staging, in March, required that I light the women as though in their homes, and create a pool of light where their internet personas could manifest themselves.

The cyber-contact threatens to overpower them – ‘Agape’ is defined as ‘unconditional love’, and the Internet can be a place without any rules or limits. . .

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I had assisted Pat Boxall with the lighting on a number of New Venture productions, so when Anita Sullivan came to direct John Donnelly’s ‘Bone’, she asked me to undertake the lighting design for the play. I remain hugely honoured that she trusted me with a full-scale theatre production. That was our February 2007 offering, and it was the first one of all the projects featured on the Seeing Stages site.

Three people. Stephen wants his ex to realise he’s got what it takes. Helen wants her dead husband back. Jamie wants a girl to see him off to war. Three lives stripped bare in a modern world. Anita Sullivan chose to stage ‘Bone’ as a promenade production, with the three actors moving around an empty Studio Theatre space, and the audience moving with them to see close-up as the action unfolded.

There are numerous settings in the play, and so I set up pools of light for the three actors to move through, passing into darkness as they moved to the next one, which signified a different location.

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