2009

Listed in order, just scroll down to find them – The Lying Kind / Bold Girls / Art / Mlle Y / Deathwatch / The Maids / Festen / Five Kinds of Silence

NVT’s December offering was ‘The Lying Kind’, by Anthony Neilson. It’s a comedy, featuring, amongst others, two incompetent coppers, a cross-dressing vicar, and the feisty leader of a group called ‘People Against Paedophile Scum’. Which explains the logo on her chest . . .

Ian black’s production was set in a suburban living room, but there were also scenes outdoors at night, which made an interesting lighting challenge.

Glorious mayhem – a real Christmas farce.

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Rona Munro’s ‘Bold Girls’ couldn’t be more different. A strange young woman appears in a Belfast house during The Troubles, causing havoc among the friends who live there.

Jerry Lyne directed this tale of friendship and betrayal as the theatre’s November production. Great fun for me, as my lighting had to change as the living room slipped from bright daylight to the warmth of sunset, and finally to the yellow of just a few incandescent bulbs in the room after midnight.

There was also a night scene in in a car park – outside a nightclub where the women had spent the evening. Two quite different, but equally challenging, locations to light.

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How simple can a set be?. For ‘Art’, which we staged in October, it was just this – a wood floor, three men, and a painting – pure white – on an easel.

Serge, Marc and Yvan are middle aged friends, comfortably off, and Serge has just spent an awful lot of money on on a piece of conceptual art – a white-on-white canvas. Yasmina Reza’s play concerns the men’s different reactions to the purchase.

I won an award for the lighting on this one. Director Tim McQuillan-Wright’s concept had the acting space surrounded by audience on all four sides, with occasional blacked out areas, leaving just a single actor illuminated as he spoke.

The play is about what value we should place on a work of art, and there is intense disagreement among the characters. Interestingly, no critic has mentioned the fact that Yvan (the one in the brown jacket) has been undergoing therapy for depression, and the fees, added up over the years of his treatment, are almost exactly the same as the cost of the painting . . .

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‘Madamoiselle Y’ is an adaption of August Strindburg’s play ‘The Stronger’. It’s about the meeting of two women in a late nineteenth century Paris bistro, where only one woman speaks. The other remains silent, and it’s her refusal to react to the questions put to her that eventually make it obvious that she is in fact the mistress of the speaking woman’s husband.

Mike Stubbs staged ‘Mlle Y’ in the NVT’s bar in July, with the audience sitting at tables. I had to rig lights discreetly from the top of the bar, and off the room’s central structural column.

For the second half of the evening, the audience moved into the Studio, where Tamar Daly performed a movement piece that she had written and choreographed herself.

There was a sound accompaniment to this, performed by Nicolette Corcoran Macleod. Nicolette used a loop machine, starting with simple sounds, “Wah”s and “Ooh”s, which were repeated, resampled and multiplied to produce a haunting, and somehow very musical, background to Tamar Daly’s visual performance.

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I’d wanted to direct ‘The Maids’ ever since I’d first read Genet’s play, and I was lucky to have a brilliant trio of actors to perform it for me.

It’s set in Madame’s Paris apartment, where the maids, two working-class sisters, hate their bourgeois employer and plan to kill her. As well as the lighting, I designed the set for this production, with luxurious velvet drapes and a huge bed strewn with Madame’s gowns.

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But our June production was in two parts, and after the interval the audience returned to see Genet’s ‘Deathwatch’. It’s set in a prison cell where status depends on the severity of a prisoner’s crimes, and the inmates are constantly jostling to be top dog.

I’d always felt that the apartment in ‘The Maids’ was really a prison, and so my set was built to reflect that. At the commencement of the second half, The Guard entered what looked like Madame’s apartment, unchanged except for the closure of the curtains. He then proceeded to pull down the velvet drapes, revealing the stone prison walls beneath. (during the interval, we had closed a hinged central section of the set, which became the cell’s door).

He also took away the luxurious cover on the enormous double bed, exposing a pair of single beds which he moved round to define the outer edges of the cell.

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‘Festen’ was a challenging production to light – a celebration dinner table seating nine, stretching half way round The Studio walls, with action also taking place in the area downstage of it, towards the audience.

Pat Boxall directed David Eldridge’s play in May. It’s the story of a family patriarch’s birthday celebration, during which he’s accused by his son of sexually abusing his children.

I saw a professional production of ‘Festen’ at Brighton’s Theatre Royal, and it was wooden compared to Pat’s stunning production. We used two little girls to play the granddaughter on alternate nights.

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Kirsty Harbron not only directed Shelagh Stephenson’s harrowing tale of family abuse, she also introduced me to the two actresses who would become the sisters in my production of ‘The Maids’.

Billy has emotionally and sexually abused his wife and daughters for years, and eventually they are driven to kill him. The action of the violence, and later the investigation of the circumstances, take place in a variety of locations, and my lighting had to continually change the focus of the audience’s attention.

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