Lighting design

Uncle Vanya (lighting design by Bruno Poet)
Photo credit: Johan Persson

For a while now I’ve been rather fascinated by a show’s lighting design. It’s not just there so you can see what’s going on – lighting design helps set the scene in more ways than one. It can evoke a particular emotion, create an atmosphere, and draw your eye; it can be subtle or bold, colourful or plain, traditional or high-tech. Over the past few years I’ve focused mostly on great storytellers or the more celebrated methods employed in theatre-making, so it’s about time I learned a bit more about a fundamental feature of stage work that probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Each month I’ll highlight my favourite pieces of lighting design, incorporating as wide a spectrum of venues & genres as possible, and from those try to whittle down the best of 2020. With any luck I’ll also be able to bring you the odd feature here & there, so we can learn about the lighting design process together!

Anything glows

January 2020

The Duchess of Malfi, Almeida Theatre (14 January 2020) – Jack Knowles
Death of England, National Theatre – Dorfman (31 January 2020) – Jackie Shemesh

Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic (18 & 25 January 2020) – Malcolm Rippeth

Photo credit: Steve Tanner

As you might expect from an Emma Rice show, there is plenty of bright & beautiful colour involved (ably assisted by Lez Brotherston’s minimalist set design with its own set of neon signs). Back in 2017-18 it boldly lit up the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as much as the space allowed, but for this new tour it’s full steam ahead and no holds barred; the pink tinge that seems to radiate from the hearts as Angélique & Jean-René fall in love, the back-lighting as the factory workers peer into their boss’ office… There’s also a clever use of darkness, too, that helps zone in on the more intimate moments – such as Jean-René’s heart-to-heart with the concierge. Malcolm Rippeth never disappoints me with his lighting design, and Romantics Anonymous is another outstanding example.