‘Ten Moon Minutes’ features two astronauts stranded on the surface of The Moon.
With these plays I tried to make the actors stand out from a black background – nothing to distract the audience.
The black nothingness behind worked very well with ‘1, 2, 3.’, a very dark and minimally staged piece about a prisoner and an executioner – but which is which? …
The ‘Ten Minute Plays’ was a challenging lighting project, as the same lighting rig had to work for eight different plays, evoking a suitable mood and location in each one.
‘Seven Jewish Children’ used lighting as a major part of the staging. Caryl Churchill’s play consists of a series of speeches to the parent of a young Jewish girl, at various periods in Jewish history since the Second World War and the Holocaust. Churchill’s notes tell us that it can be cast with any number of actors of either gender. When I came to direct the piece I decided to do it with seven women, performing the speeches individually and then with the final long speech done by the whole group of seven. I wanted them to look like the Chorus from a Greek tragedy – which is what I feel the 20th Century history of Palestine is – so I dressed the women all in black, and they each came forward into a pool of light to make their speech, then returned to the darkness to make way for the next …
(pictures of ‘Seven Jewish Children’ by Jezz Bowden)
That’s what lighting design is all about – setting the scene for the action of the play, and then making the actors clearly defined and exciting to watch. Here’s a selection of photographs from plays I have lit over the past few years.
I won a Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Award for the lighting on ‘Of Mice and Men’. We tried to evoke the fire where George and Lennie camp for the night, and the long evening shadows by the river where Lennie is finally killed.
By contrast, ‘Strangers on a Train’, Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 story about two men swapping murders, was done very minimally. The designer wanted a set that looked like an architect’s building plan (one of the men is an architect), and so my lighting had to bring up different areas to locate the different scenes. At one point the murderer is outside the architects office, looking up at the window while the others are inside. Another scene takes place on the stairs and landing of a house, and that space was created by a set of downward facing strips of light.
Like ‘Strangers on a Train’, the lighting defined different locations in the host couple’s work and home life, including a scene in a bar.
As well as the lighting, I had to design a table that was big and sturdy enough to climb on, and to hide under…
‘Bouncers’ and ‘Shakers’ are a pair of plays about work in a nightclub, as experienced by the security staff and the cocktail waitresses. Very funny plays, in a location with loads of opportunity for exciting lighting states. I decided early on that the dominant colours should be the neon purple-pink of the bar interior, and the blue-green of the mercury lighting in the car park outside.
I think it’s the sheer range of possibilities that make lighting so exhilarating to do. Starting with just a black space, we can create anything – from midday at a Dictator’s elegant villa, in ‘Splendour’ by Abi Morgan – to well after midnight in a throbbing nightclub, in Rona Munro’s ‘Bold Girls’ …