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White Light Supplies You Stupid Darkness! at Southwark Playhouse
UK – White Light has supplied the lighting for You Stupid Darkness! which recently opened at the Southwark Playhouse in London.
Presented by Paines Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth, You Stupid Darkness! is an urgent new play set within the Brightline Call Centre and focuses on four colleagues who try to keep their lives together whilst the outside world falls apart. The Lighting Designer on the show is Peter Small, who comments: “My brief for this production was that it shouldn’t feel ‘lit’; meaning I wanted it to feel as natural as possible to the audience. The concept was that you had sort of peeled the wall off this strange office and were peering in from a dark place, somewhat ‘fly on the wall’. This concept meant working closely with set designer Amy Jane Cook and adding in masking which would allow me to drop the rig very low and hide it away from the audience. As this was a dystopian piece, I also had to have a rig that would allow for bursts of surrealism, alongside the hyperrealism.”
And whilst the show is dealing with large issues, the production itself was all about the smaller details. Peter explains: “The set is the same location throughout and also very naturalistic. Therefore a lot of my lighting had to showcase a passage in time, as this was often the only indication in between scenes. I did this by varying the background from return to return; sometimes the computer was on, sometimes the lamps were on and off, sometimes someone left the main light off but forgot to turn the kitchen light off etc. The show also starts very brightly and intentionally gets darker as the situation worsens for our characters. I don’t think moments of ugliness or shadows creeping in are a bad thing; in fact, it’s something we celebrated with this show.”
Knowing the creative and practical brief that he had to achieve, Peter contacted WL and worked closely with senior account handler Louise Houlihan and account handler Hugh Kemp to decide on his perfect fixtures. He explains: “With a show like this, you have to put a lot of thought into every single fixture you draw on and make sure it earns its place. Parcans are the focal point, providing a four by four grid of pipe end with a heavy diffusion, as this four by four set-up gets around the set obstacles. Dimmable CFLs then echo this concept but in a toplight sort of way, as they are also used as strobes. The Acclaims did a great job suggesting some spotlights on a track like you might find in an office; again, emphasising the natural realism. Generically then anything coming in from outside had to be a profile to cut around the metal work on the set.”
He adds: “We used 500w Fresnels for footlights with Source Four Pars, mainly due to their form factor but also the fact that they were a great source for candlelight in the later scenes. The windows all received Chroma-Q Color Force 48s, with the cell control important for us to suggest the various changes that were happening outside the space. A fistful of Data Flashes were used for either a spot effect or backlight strobing the audience whilst Nitro strobes on the advanced bar allowed for a strong front blast. We also had an Elation ACL curtain as we cannot achieve a full blackout due to the candles hence the curtain provided a somewhat framing metaphor. Alongside this, we had multiple smoke and haze machines, multiple AF1 fans, a swirl fan, snow machine, an exploding kettle, electro magnets, collapsing desk and a lot of LED tape”.
The show originally ran at Theatre Royal Plymouth before transferring to London. As such, Peter had to make certain adjustments to his design. He explains: “Whenever you move venues, your design is obviously going to change. For us, this mainly came in the form of unit quantity, rigging and infrastructure. When we arrived in London, I had to work closely with my production electrician Doug Finlay to go through the show file and calculate the maximum power consumption and channel usage. Following this, rather than cut the rig, we wanted to make sure we used alternatives and paired fixtures where we could. Thankfully, the team at WL was extremely useful in suggesting which units we draw on and I even ended up adding some moving lights to the rig.”
The show has now opened to rave reviews and will run until 22nd February 2020.
Peter concludes: “It’s been fantastic to revisit this brilliant, highly-relevant show and bring it to a London audience. Often transfers can be tricky but thankfully I had a brilliant team in Doug, Tom Davis (programmer) and, of course, WL who supported me every step of the way.”
photos: Ali Wright
28th January 2020
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