Listed in order, just scroll down to find them – Full Beam / The Pillowman / Antigone / Brief Encounter / Lulu / Blood Wedding / The Homecoming / Albatross 3rd and Main
After all the complicated lighting rigs I’ve done this year, it felt somehow appropriate to end 2017 with a short play that gets its power from a very simple lighting effect.
‘Full Beam’ is an NVT adaption (by Barry Purchese) of David Swallow’s American play. It’s set in a moving car, taking two couples on a breakneck – and at times very funny – journey along dark country roads, dazzled by the full-beam headlights of the ominously threatening vehicle that’s following them.
Director Mike Stubbs wanted to suggest the following car constantly moving close and then dropping back a bit, so I set up two lamps in the darkness behind the actors, which could be dimmed and then raised to full intensity to dazzle them – and more importantly, the audience. Apart from the ‘headlights’, the only other lighting was a simple coverage of the actors on their seats. Job done!
( photo by Kasha Goodenough )
Quite a small stage at The Marlborough Theatre, but we managed to get an awful lot of people onto it for Slurring Words’ production of ‘The Pillowman’.
Martin McDonagh’s play is set in a dystopian dictatorship, and the police have pulled in a writer and his brother for questioning over a series of child murders. Actually, ‘questioning’ is putting it rather mildly . . ..
We had three musicans on stage, too, to create mood and tension as the stories were related, and the writer’s words were acted out on a shadow screen.
Tricky to manage all the lighting effects in such a confined space, but doing the lighting design and rigging was great fun. The Marlborough’s technical team were very supportive.
I did the lighting operation on all four nights of the run, and part of the fun was watching the audience react to the way the subject was treated – with a lot of very funny lines. This was about killing children, so were they allowed to laugh? Some audiences did, some were much more restrained . . .
‘Antigone’ is a play about individual morality versus the edicts of the State. Sophokles’ drama centres on the refusal of Antigone to leave one of her brothers unburied after both have been killed on opposing sides in a civil war.
Director Sam Chittenden chose to stage the play in the round, with audience on all four sides of the acting space in the NVT Studio, so I had to produce lighting that worked from every angle, as Antigone tries to persuade her reluctant sister Ismene to join her in opposing their uncle Kreon, now the king of Thebes.
There’s a Chorus, of course, composed of the King’s counsellors, and the open staging occasionally turned the audience themselves into members of the Assembly, as the family conflict played out in Kreon’s palace.
The point of the piece is that Kreon’s insistence on refusing a burial to the dead Polyneikes will deny him entry to the Underworld – and that is deeply offensive to the Gods. Antigone’s stance sets family loyalty and divine morality against her uncle Kreon’s insistence on obedience to the laws of the State – and his own edict, of course. She pays the ultimate price – but Kreon too is destroyed, along with his wife and his son.
‘Brief Encounter’ is the story of a brief – but unconsumated – love affair between a housewife and a doctor, set in late 1930s England. Noel Coward’s narrative was turned into an iconic film by David Lean, and The Barn Theatre have undertaken its latest production as a play, incorporating live music and video, this October in Southwick.
A lot of the action – including dancing – is set in the railway station buffet, but other scenes take place in the Kardomah Cafe, a much classier Restaurant, and some more intimate locations like a boathouse and a character’s flat.
Designing the lighting was challenging, but also great fun, and The Barn actors and technicians are very friendly and welcoming.
Director Diane Robinson created a basically unchanging set (apart from the boathouse, which was moved onstage when required) and the various locations were defined by altering the lighting states, especially using a variety of different coloured backgrounds and video projections.
As well as the main love story, there are several romantic sub-plots, and a number of very funny comic interludes.
For our Brighton Fringe offering in May, NVT did a production of ‘Lulu’. Director Scott Roberts adapted Frank Wedekind’s plays from 1895 and 1904, producing the two works as a single entity as the author originally intended.
Set designer Charly Somers placed the action within a set of white squares, variously faced in see-through gauze or screens to take back projection. The actors themselves moved these elements into various arrangements, creating a series of different rooms as required by the play’s narrative.
‘Lulu’ was a tricky production to light, as various set elements needed to be hidden and then later revealed, and I had to avoid bleaching out the projection screens by keeping light from falling on the surface.
(All ‘Lulu’ photographs, except the poster, by Jezz Bowden)
There are quite a number of pictures of Federico Garcia Lorca’s ‘Blood Wedding’, as the play’s action takes place over multiple locations.
When I designed the set and lighting for New Venture’s February production I wanted to evoke those different environments, and also to eliminate distracting, time-consuming set changes between scenes. So I decided on a very simple arrangement of stage flats to provide a backdrop, which could then be lit to define each location. Lorca’s script itself specifies that each house has a different coloured interior – and of course the forest has its own requirements.
For the scenes on the terrace of the Bride’s house, I built a canopy which could be lowered into position above the action. Most of my set designs have some movement built into them, to speed up the transitions as the story develops.
‘Blood Wedding’ is a very dark tale of passion and revenge in rural Spain. The passion for family honour, but also the passion for ownership and control of the land. Director Chris Dangerfield achieved powerful performances from a large cast.
Teddy brings his wife Ruth back from America to meet the family in London. It should be a pleasant visit, but not in Harold Pinter’s dark play ‘The Homecoming’ …
‘Disfunctional’ is probably the best word for Teddy’s family – intense sibling rivalry and aggression extending over two generations.
Ruth, the newcomer to the family, is more than capable of dealing with the men … Director Steven O’Shea’s production was done on the wide stage at New Venture, and my lighting had to create a sense of gloomy claustrophobia in that challenging space.
A great production to work on. I also produced the poster for the show, which you can see on the ‘Theatre Posters’ page of this site – it’s the fourth one as you scroll down.
It’s been almost a year since I designed the lighting for ‘Albatross 3rd and Main’ at Emporium Theatre in Brighton. Now the show is getting a second production, at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, London.
Simon David Eden’s writing is incredibly sharp and funny – his dialogue reminds me strongly of David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino – so it was a real pleasure to be asked to design the lighting again, in a different venue, and work with The Park’s very helpful and friendly technicians.
The action takes place in a run-down bait and tackle shop somewhere in rural Massachusetts, with the three characters attempting to sell the corpse of a Golden Eagle to Native Americans on the nearby Reservation (it’s sacred to their beliefs), while the US Fish and Wildlife Service are hot on their tail. Great characters, great comedy.