Listed in order, just scroll down to find them – Short Play Festival / The Father
Short play Festival
A bit of a break for a few months, mostly photographing other productions that I hadn’t worked on, but in July we staged another short play festival at New Venture.
Three short plays, all very different and run back-to-back, meant that I had to design lighting that worked to produce three very different environments.
‘Agency’ is about a Government aide turned whistleblower, who’s just quit her post. The action takes place in her office, at night, so I had to create a dimly-lit atmosphere, while still keeping the actors visible.
‘Agency’ is very contemporary, but ‘Hope that plays a tune alone’ is set just a year or so after the end of the second world war. Kitty has lost her beloved in the war, and is struggling against grief, while the local vicar supplies a ray of hope for her future.
Her friend Elsa is much more positive and practical, while Kitty continually retreats to a fantasy world of her own.
A sad play, where the director emphasised Kitty’s loneliness by the starkness of the minimal furniture and props. I kept my lighting very simple, too.
By contrast to these two plays, ‘Match and Matrimony’ is a pastiche of a Jane Austen novel. Very funny, with a transvestite son as one of the family’s ‘daughters’, and the director himself playing four different roles – or is it five?
The lighting for this one had to be crisp and sparkling, but it also had to range from the candle-lit interior of a small cottage to a ball in the Big House, plus some exterior scenes.
In March we staged Florian Zeller’s play ‘The Father’ at New Venture, and I undertook the set and lighting design for the production. The central character is André, an elderly man suffering from dementia. We see the action through André’s eyes, which is why he can’t recognise the changing identity of the two women who seem to be his daughter Anne.
The action apparently takes place in Andre’s flat, but does it really? The final scenes are set in the antiseptic environment of a nursing home – but maybe that’s where André’s really been all along . . .
Over successive scenes, the domestic elements of André’s flat gradually disappear. We had to do the prop removal in darkness, with the audience’s perception blocked by music and dazzling light.
There were evening scenes, too, where the family ate dinner in the apartment. Later the dining table would be spirited away with the rest of the furnishings, along with Delphine du Barry’s powerful paintings.
I love creating theatre sets which aren’t static, and I’m really committed to avoiding messy, time-consuming scene changes. All of the changes in ‘The Father’, including the transformation of the sofa into the care-home bed, took place in less than fifteen seconds.