2016 Projects

Listed in order, just scroll down to find them  –  Dick Barton / That’s Entertainment / The Clean House / Love and Information / Accidental Death of an Anarchist / East / How Many Miles to Babylon? / Our Sons As Well / The Tempest / The Vagina Monologues / The Trojan Women / Albatross 3rd and Main / Loot

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Wow!.   Dancing, in a BBC radio studio, inside a live theatre.   That was the basic concept of ‘Dick Barton and the Tango of Terror’ – New Venture Theatre’s December production.

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Square-jawed, steely-eyed secret agent sdsc04472Dick Barton was a fifties radio hero on the BBC, and director Gerry McCrudden has recreated the studio setting as a large cast perform Dick’s adventures live on air.

The show concept needed dance numbers, too, with the actors stepping forward of the microphones to perform a set of tango routines.

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A great production to work on, as I had to design lighting which could morph seamlessly from the radio studio environment to focus the lighting – and the audience’s attention – on the dance floor.

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All the stock post-war British tropes were on display in ‘Dick Barton’ – evil foreigners, doughty (but dim) working-class assistants, and an overwhelming sense of Public School superiority and ‘fair play’.     It’s actually a perfect primer for understanding Brexit.

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Like last year, this November I was asked to do the lighting design and rigging at The Barn Theatre, for Southwick Opera’s production of ‘That’s Entertainment’.   Once again, the whole company made me feel very welcome.

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The show is a fast-moving collection of songs from over twenty-five of our favourite musicals – everything from ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ to ‘Spamalot’.

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It’s quite a big space at The Barn – sometimes there were more than two dozen singers on stage at once.   I had to devise lighting for subjects as varied as the departure scene from Titanic to the frenetic dance routines of ‘Jumpin’ Jive’ .

wdsc03034Much more than just singing, though – the Southwick Opera company carried off several brilliant tap routines.

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Dance numbers, too.  This performance of ‘Come Fly With Me’ was a fine example of their professionalism – from a completely amateur company.

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In November, we did ‘The Clean House’wxdsc02163 at New Venture Theatre.   Sarah Ruhl’s play is the story of two doctors, Lane and Charles, and their Brazilian Cleaner, Matilde, who doesn’t want to clean.

What she does like doing is telling jokes, and making them up.   This could be a problem, but Lane’s sister Victoria actually enjoys cleaning – it gives her life some meaning, producing order out of chaos.wx2dsc02467wxdsc02682

Then surgeon Charles falls in love with his wxdsc02199patient, Ana (who’s from Argentina).  So the play becomes a domestic / marital comedy of manners, with a lot of jokes and banter in Portuguese between the maid and the sister.

We also got to see Matilde’s parents – but only in her memory.

Loads of interesting and atmospheric lighting on this one, focusing the wdsc02429audience’s attention on different areas of the stage in turn.

Director Sam Chittenden kept the action moving among a number of locations, including an operating theatre, a balcony and a bar.

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‘Love and Information’ at the New Venture in July.  Caryl Churchill’s play is concerned with our obsessive use of the internet and social media.

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The piece is a series of almost thirty short SSDSC01044playlets – sometimes very short indeed – focusing on different aspects of how we handle personal and sexual relationships online.

Lighting ‘Love and Information’ was a real challenge – different areas of the acting space had to be isolated, to define one actor (or a small group) for a short scene.

Occasionally, the light had to jump quickly among a sequence of these spots, creating an almost stroboscopic effect.

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There was video, too.  I had to ensure that light was kept off the screens, to retain brightness and contrast in the prorected images.

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It’s ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ at the NVT in June, and here the police are working up ‘The Third Version’ of how the railway worker came to fall from a fourth floor window at Police Headquarters.    WDSC00445

After a month of writing reviews for Brighton Fringe it was good to get back to design the lighting for Dario Fo’s classic anti-authority farce.

WDSC00489All the action takes place in two offices at Police Headquarters – the set designer simply changed the background behind the window – and I was able to produce the effect of light streaming through the office window.

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There’s lots of manic WDSC00858activity as a lunatic is mistaken for an investigating magistrate, and finally they have to deal with a left-wing journalist.

Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for Miss Feletti …

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Blimey!   They’re doing Steven Berkoff’s ‘East’ at 88 London Road, as their Fringe festival production.    A really high-energy production, bringing out all the power of Berkoff’s language.

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You wouldn’t want to mess with Sylv.

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Les and Mike are pretty leery, too.

They’re all from London’s East End

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Mum and Dad are yer typical Cockneys –

Dad still harks back to the days of ‘Ozzie’ Moseley …

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Designing the lighting was a real joy on ‘East’ – and such a change in style from ‘The Tempest’ – the last production I lit here.

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This one has a really minimal set, making full use of the peeling brickwork at 88 London Road.

‘East’s Director Alan Perrin has brought out all the raw energy of Berkoff’s script.

There’s an incredible amount of bad language – it felt weird to hear a whole scene using the word ‘cunt’ when only two months ago I had worked on the ultra-feminist  ‘The Vagina Monologues’  –

That’s Brighton for you …

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And here’s a press photo for ‘Accidental Death Of An Anarchist’.   New Venture are doing Dario Fo’s powerful political farce later in the year, but we needed to do an early picture using existing theatre lights to make it look like a performance.

I love the show – I’m old enough to have seen Alfred Molina play the Maniac in London in 1979.  Here’s Des Potton in the role, in a wonderfully inappropriate check jacket, with the ex-Fascist police inspector (still wearing his blackshirt) and the left-wing journalist.

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April’s production at New Venture is ‘How Many Miles to Babylon?’ – a play about Irish soldiers in the First World War.

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The action moves from rural Ireland – where Alec, son of the local Anglo-Irish landowner becomes friends with Jerry, a lad from the village – to the mud and shell-holes of the Western Front

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I designed lighting to suggest locations varying from the ‘big house’ in Ireland, to a cafe in Flanders, and the trenches of the battlefront in France.

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The final scenes are harrowing to watch.

Director Gerry McCrudden got some powerful performances from his cast.

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Ahead of ‘How Many Miles To Babylon’, we used the same set as a stage for Tamsin’s production of an evening of Great War poetry and prose  –  ‘Our Sons As Well’.

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The title comes from Kemal Ataturk’s words on the monument to the dead at Gallipoli, where tens of thousands of Turkish, Anzac, Indian and British troops lie buried  –

 “There is no difference between the OSAW StratJohnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well”

I chose (and read) that piece, as we wanted to make a wider event than the usual focus on the Western Front.

OSAW Debz SebbornAmong a range of personal memorials, Debz Sebborn read her own words about her uncle Percy’s time as a soldier, and other New Venture actors read from the diaries of various participants – German as well as British and Indian.

We were very privileged to be able to read a number of poems by Vanessa Gebbie, from her (then unpublished) book ‘Memorandum’.

OSAW Vanessa GebbieVanessa herself took part in the evening, reading from other poets’ work and leaving her own poems to us.  I read ‘Artillery’.

We also read her haunting  – ‘David Bury: Poem for Seven Voices’ as you can see in the main photograph.

(all photos by Jezz Bowden)

You can read my review of ‘Memorandum’ on my writing site at https://stratmastoris.wordpress.com/other-reviews/  and it’s also up as a review on Amazon.

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It’ll soon be Brighton Fringe, and Andrew Allen is directing (and writing) ‘Year Without Summer’

It’s a play about the year 1816, when a volcanic eruption produced sufficient dust to affect the climate.  A group of British aristocrats, including Byron and Shelley, took themselves off to Geneva, where evenings of ghost storytelling led Mary Shelley to write ‘Frankenstein’.

Tamsin designed the poster, with its ominous, thundery background, and I photographed the cast – in the snug confines of the Dukebox Theatre itself.   Oh, the joys of Photoshop!

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A lot of pictures of ‘The Tempest’ because Emporium’s production is so innovative and exciting.

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Director Nick Quirke made use of the entire space, including the audience seating rake, and integrated projected images into the scenes.  Peta Taylor’s set design is breathtaking.

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Only six actors to play all Shakespeare’s characters, so they had to multi-role (with very quick changes of costume)

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Always a great experience to design and rig lighting at Emporium – with superb help from Sadie and Edd.

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“My revolution starts here! …”    A performance of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at The Dome Studio on International Women’s Day.   Eve Ensler’s famous work celebrates the experience of women – political and economic, but also sexual, as Sascha Cooper demonstrates the ‘Diva orgasm’ …

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Angela Dezelin directed a cast of twenty-four amazingly talented women to bring the piece to life.  We had only a few hours to construct the set and rig the lighting, and we got great assistance from the incredibly helpful technical team at The Dome.  (Thanks especially to lighting operator Emma.)

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I designed lighting that produced pools of illumination for the women to step into when delivering their monologues.   I was so pleased and honoured to be associated with this project.

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“Fire!”

Hecuba, Queen of Troy, looks on in horror as her daughter Cassandra bursts into the gutted ballroom clutching a pair of petrol bombs.   ‘The Trojan Women’ has been updated to the modern era in New Venture’s February production.

SDSC02754The fate of women in a defeated city hasn’t changed much in three thousand years, though.  They will be carried off into slavery, or into the beds of their conquerors.  The slain Prince Hector’s son is about to be thrown off the battlements – ending the family line, and a Greek herald has come (reluctantly) to take him from his mother Andromache.

SDSC02842King Menelaus has SDSC02838come to kill his faithless wife Helen, the cause of the war. She will survive, though, and return to live in Sparta. 

Menelaus won’t be able to resist her charms or her wiles for long …

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Director Ella Turk-Thompson worked with a large cast – portraying the women’s grief sometimes with singing, sometimes with dance, surrounding their Queen as she prepares to bury the corpse of her grandson.

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The director wanted to give the impression of a shattered building, with shafts of light coming through holes in the damaged roof.  I created pools of light that the actors passed into, and through, before moving back into shadow.

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It’s ultimately the fault of the Gods, though.  At the beginning, Poseidon walks sorrowfully through the gutted palace – his favoured Troy destroyed by the wiles of Athena and by Odysseus’ wooden horse.   But Agamemnon’s forces have defiled Athena’s temple in the sack of the city, and now the aggrieved goddess wants revenge on the Greeks …

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We’re well used to the concept of the ‘fourth wall’ in theatre.  For ‘The Albatross 3rd & Main’, though, the fourth wall was largely taken up by a slatted window.  All through the second act, sodium light from a street lamp outside came pouring into Gene’s hardware and tackle shop, situated on 3rd & Main streets of some sleepy New England town.

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It’s a three-hander, with brilliant dialogue (reminiscent of David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino), written and directed by Simon David Eden.  The guys are being watched – but by whom? – and keep peering through the window at the street outside.  It was very satisfying to design this ‘noir’ style of lighting to support the staging..

X2DSC02023 The first act takes place in the afternoon, and my lighting had to be much brighter, while still giving a gloomy, dusty feel to the recesses of the store interior.

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Great fun working on this production, and a welcome return to old friends at Emporium.

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It’s 2016, and there are a number of interesting projects coming up – starting with Joe Orton’s ‘Loot’ at the New Venture Theatre in January.  I’m a huge fan of Orton, so I was really pleased to design the lighting and the poster.for this production.

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‘Loot’ is a heartwarming tale of family life . . .

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Or rather – Not!   Joe Orton wrote unforgettable characters, most of whom were totally without morality or conscience.  This play is full of them.

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McLeavy’s wife has just died, and while her (ex) nurse Fay is angling to marry him (with Mrs McLeavy not even yet buried –  the jade!), he reads about a bank robbery in the locality.  Unbeknown to him, It’s been carried out by his son Hal and Hal’s friend Dennis, who works for a local undertaker.

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The boys have to find somewhere to hide the loot – and where better than Hal’s mother’s coffin.  But that leaves no room for the body … so they stuff Mrs McLeavy’s embalmed corpse into a wardrobe, where it’s eventually discovered by Fay.

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Enter the police, in the person of the mysterious Inspector Truscott.

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Truscott turns out to be the archetypical bent copper, and Fay is revealed as a serial murderer.

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Heartwarming, as I said.  Someone has to carry the can, though, so in the interests of British Justice they finally arrest McLeavy (the only totally innocent character in the whole piece).

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Enormous fun.  A fast-paced production of Orton’s classic directed by Steven O’Shea.

There was a press photo too, of course, with Hal and Dennis checking on the loot stashed in Hal’s mother’s coffin.  As usual, that had to be taken before the set was constructed.

Loot by Joe Orton

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