Listed in order, just scroll down to find them – Sleeping Beauty / Petrushka / Unwholesome Things / Hay Fever / Amongst Barbarians / Decade / Brewers Fayre / Entertaining Mr Sloane / Hedwig and The Angry Inch / Endgame / Bernard Shaw invites You / The Winslow Boy / To the Green Fields Beyond / Old Times / Underneath the Lintel / Cinders.
December – so it’s pantomime time again at Emporium. This year the theatre is putting on Doug Devaney’s adaption of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and I designed and rigged the lighting for the production.
Lots of actors, including three separate troupes of children (for different nights) filled the space with colour and action. Like most fairy stories, it’s a battle between good and evil, and Gary Blair’s enormous set provided a charming castle, along with a truly frightening Evil Tower for the baddies.
The show is on through December and into January. Not to be missed!
A return to The Marlborough Theatre in mid-November, to design, rig and (unusually for me) operate the lighting on ‘Petrushka’ for Crimson Horse Theatre. I hadn’t worked at the venue since ‘Underneath the Lintel’ last December, but it was great to do another project with their upgraded lighting setup.
‘Petrushka’ is an old Russian folk tale, turned into a ballet with music by Stravinsky, and director/writer Sascha Cooper had adapted the story into a Victorian fairground setting, with an evil Puppet Master and a distinctly pantomime feel to the show.
The Marlborough stage is quite small – just a black box – but the space worked well with this production as the five actors had to perform in close proximity, keeping the audience’s attention tightly focused.
Real ensemble playing by the five actors, with great performances all round – but Chris Hayes’ clowning and tumbling skills as Petrushka were amazing – unforgettable.
Back to Emporium at the beginning of November, to design and rig the lighting for ‘Unwholesome Things’, an evening of very creepy ghost stories directed by James Lloyd Pegg for his company ‘Strange Beast’.
I’d seen a ‘Strange Beast’ production before, when they put on ‘And No Birds Sing’ at Brighton’s Booth Museum a few years ago. That was very atmospheric, so I was keen to work with James on this one.
It’s essentially a rehearsed reading, with a cast of seven actors speaking the dialogue parts in tales like ‘The Monkey’s Paw’.
Sometimes rehearsed readings can feel a bit flat, but in this case it was as if the books came to life in front of the audience.
Powerful characterisation from the actors – and I like to think that the lighting helped to define the mood and location.
By the end of October we had the new front lighting bar in place in New Venture’s Upstairs Theatre. We’ve been planning to install this for a while, and I used it to good effect in my lighting design for ‘Hay Fever’, Noel Coward’s comedy about a nightmare weekend in the country.
The Bliss family are ‘artistic’ – She’s an actress, he’s a novelist and their children are totally self-centred. They each invite a guest down for the weekend, and the hapless visitors get engulfed in the Bliss family traumas.
Director Gerry McCrudden brought out Coward’s humour, and also gave us a very stylish ‘twenties’ experience.
October. We’re properly into Autumn in Brighton, but it’s hot and humid in Penang, and you can hear a constant background noise of crickets. New Venture Theatre staged ‘Amongst Barbarians’, Michael Wall’s 1989 play about the hanging of two young drug smugglers in Malaysia.
The action takes place in the hotel where the smugglers’ families are staying, and in the prison where the boys are being held awaiting execution.
I did the lighting for the production, and my design had to evoke the different locations as the story unfolded. Each area needed a different treatment – the prisoners’ cell and the prison visiting area, the hotel bar, plus two hotel rooms, including a scene which opens with one of the boys’ mothers in bed with the hotel barman. Lou Gregory’s imaginative set managed to take the audience to all these places.
I did the photography, too. It’s very satisfying to record powerful acting, and there were some great (and moving) performances under Sean Lippett-Fall’s direction.
“My God – Did you see THAT?”… We couldn’t help ducking as the roar of an aircraft seemed to pass right overhead – very close and very loud, followed by the sound of a massive explosion.
Back working at New Venture Theatre in July, where we staged ‘Decade’ – a collection of short plays about the 2001 attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.
Director Kirsty Elmer decided to stage the plays as a promenade production, leading audience members through three areas of the NVT building to watch the action take place in varied
locations, and which allowed the hard-working stage crew to reset the scene before the audience returned to watch a subsequent play in a space they’d visited previously.
Very much a multi-media production, with the locations defined by video projections onto the theatre’s walls. The plays’ settings varied from an Italian restaurant and an airport departure lounge, to the basement rooms of an illegal abortionist.
My lighting design had to illuminate wider areas than if audience seating was in place, while still keeping light off the video projections so as not to bleach them out.
Like JFK’s assassination, the events of 9/11 are part of popular history. For younger audience members, though, this production made them feel that they’d been there too.
Not content with lighting two other shows during the Festival, I also did the lighting for Stramash Theatre’s production of ‘Brewers Fayre’. And yes, that missing apostrophe is deliberate, in fact it’s an important feature of David Greig’s play about sexual affairs on the Internet.
Director Sandie Armstrong wanted to do the play at Brighton Media Centre, which has a photographic studio in the basement, with an ‘infinity cove’ that has curves where the walls and floor meet. This is used to produce horizon-free photography, but for ‘Brewers Fayre’ we used it to create an other-worldly setting for the play. After all – a lot of it takes place in the virtual world of cyberspace. ‘Brewers Fayre’ is a downmarket restaurant chain in Scotland, and we managed to define the lounge area as well, lighting it separately but linking it so that the action could flow seamlessly between the spaces.
I’ve always been a tremendous fan of Joe Orton – I’m old enough to have seen Leonard Rossiter play Inspector Truscott in ‘Loot’ just weeks before he died. So I was really pleased to be designing the lighting on ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’ at Emporium in May. It’s going to run through into the middle of June, and it’s got the same cast that played in ‘Endgame’.
Same cast, but there’s a totally different conception for this production of ‘Sloane’, with Gary Blair’s set giving us the claustrophobic feel of Kath and her Dadda’s house, where Eddie stalks Sloane, and Sloane himself gets away with murder …
May is the month of Brighton Fringe, and New Venture Theatre are putting on ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ as their main offering.
Hedwig is an East German transsexual rock singer who has a tragic accident, and the whole production feels like ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, but for grown-ups …
It’s got a fabulous band playing some great music, and it’s meant to look like a proper rock gig. Which meant that when I designed the lighting there was only one rule – if it looks like it’s over-the-top … double it !
I did the lighting for the Christmas pantomime at Emporium in Brighton, and I was back there at the beginning of April to do the lighting design and rigging on their production of ‘Endgame’.
Samuel Beckett’s play is a bleak dystopia, set in a world that seems to be running down and collapsing. (‘bleak dystopia’ isn’t a tautology – few imagined futures are quite as lacking in hope as this one) But there’s humour too, admittedly of the graveyard kind, and James Weisz’s direction brought this out.
Just four characters – the monstrous Hamm, his long-suffering servant Clov, and Hamm’s parents Nagg and Nell – inhabit what seems to be an abandoned bunker or blockhouse. Gary Blair’s set is unforgettable, and it was exciting to bring it to life with the lighting, using muted amounts of illumination to create a brooding solidity in the acting space at Emporium.
Paddy O’Keeffe is performing another run of his award-winning show ‘Bernard Shaw invites YOU’ at the Brighton Fringe in May, so he needed posters and flyers produced during March.
It’s a one-man show, where Paddy both talks about George Bernard Shaw, and plays the man himself, telling anecdotes and expounding Shaw’s philosophy and politics.
Paddy O’Keeffe doesn’t attempt an exact likeness to GBS, (as you can see from the reverse of the flyer), but I photographed him to try to catch the humour and sparkiness of both men.
The show has recently toured in India, and we included some Indian press comments on the flyer.
Lighting design and rigging on another powerful production at New Venture Theatre in late February. This time it was ‘The Winslow Boy’ by Terence Rattigan.
The play features an Edwardian father determined to clear his son’s name after the boy is accused of stealing while a cadet at naval college. The family engage a famous barrister to fight the case, and I tried to bring out the drama of his cross-examination of the boy.
Fine direction from Gerry McCrudden, and a great set by Tim McQuillan-Wright, who managed to create a staging which sketched in the family drawing room without being over-realistic.
February saw preparations for ‘To The Green Fields Beyond’, Nick Whitby’s powerful play about a tank crew in action in France, near the close of World War One.
Brighton company ‘Two Bins’ are staging this at the beginning of March, and needed press photographs, which had to be taken in the rehearsal space using my own photographic lighting to simulate an actual performance.
Emotions run high between the characters, as I hope the photos make clear, and great performances from the actors made this an exciting project to be part of.
In January we staged Harold Pinter’s ‘Old Times’ at Brighton’s New Venture Theatre, and I designed the set and the lighting for the production. The action takes place in Kate and Deeley’s converted farmhouse, with Act One in the living room and Act Two in the bedroom. The bedroom has a bathroom adjoining, where Kate takes a bath (offstage) while Deeley talks to the visiting Anna.
I decided to construct a double-sided set, which could be rotated to show both locations in turn, and also to hide the bathroom door and then reveal it in Act Two. ‘Old Times’ is one of Pinter’s more enigmatic plays, but director Steven O’Shea got superb performances from Janice Jones as Anna, Red Gray as Kate, and Jim Calderwood as Deeley.
In December I designed the lighting for ‘Underneath The Lintel’ at The Marlborough theatre in Brighton. Glen Berger’s play about searching for someone who just might be the biblical ‘Wandering Jew’ is gripping, and Duncan Henderson is superb as the Dutch librarian.
The Marlborough have recently refurbished their performance space, and it was exciting to be able to do the rigging with the theatre’s new equipment.
In late November I did the lighting design and rigging for ‘Cinders’, the 2013 pantomime at Emporium in Brighton.
There are forest scenes, where we had terrifyingly large shadows cast onto the set ,
and of course the great Ball, where Cinderella loses her slipper at the stroke of midnight.
Loads of colour everywhere, to match the energy of the performers.
The evil Stepmother was in league with the Dark Creatures of The Night, which allowed us a lot of potential for dramatic effects.
Emporium isn’t a very big space, and all this was done with less than fifteen lanterns.
‘Cinders’ ran till early January 2014. Shame for you if you missed it …