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White Light Supplies Leopoldstadt in the West End
UK – White Light has supplied the lighting equipment for Leopoldstadt, which opened recently at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End.
Written by legendary playwright Tom Stoppard, Leopoldstadt tells the story of three generations of the same Jewish family living in early 20th century Vienna. It is directed by Patrick Marber and features a lighting design by the Olivier Award-winning Neil Austin. Neil comments: “Leopoldstadt is a truly exceptional play which encapsulates the experience of the Austrian Jews through one family’s journey.”
Beginning in the period of cultural and scientific explosion in Vienna at the turn of the century, it spans a near 60-year period ending in 1955. To achieve the passing of time it’s an abstract set of gauzes and items of furniture, which represent the one room through the years.
As such, Neil’s brief on the piece was to dress the set in a way which would guide the audience through the different time periods. He explains: “It was a question of looking at how the lighting could suggest the various changes in time-period as Austria’s political landscape transforms through the piece. At the start, it highlights the opulence of the early 20th century, then moves into the post First World War period of the 1920s, before heading into the late 30s when Vienna was under Nazi control, before finally ending in 1955 when the room has become a 'de-nazified' office. I needed to allow the lighting to capture the emotional temperature of the story.”
The emotion captured in the piece was also another huge influence on Neil’s design. He explains: “Tom Stoppard has described this as his most personal play yet and there are some truly beautiful moments packed with raw emotion. As such I knew that my fixtures needed to be quiet to ensure each of these points in the play had moments to breathe and could be underpinned by silence.”
Knowing what he had to achieve, Neil approached WL to supply him with the fixtures he required. He explains: “For this rig, I drew on a mix of ETC Revolutions, Vari*Lite VL1000AS ERS, ETC Source Four Series 2 Lustrs, Bambino 5kW Fresnels and standard Source Fours. The Vari*Lite VL1000AS ERS were used on booms in the wing, emulating the daylight through windows, and were brilliant playing to their natural colour temperature advantages. The 5kWs played a similar role as they were used to recreate sunlight. The Lustrs were used as general work-horse units while the Revolutions were used as specials.”
Whilst there was a very limited set in the play, Neil’s design had to contend with the gauzes that were on stage. He explains: “In order to light the rear gauze and gauze legs, I asked for troughs to be buried in the raked stage which then housed a range of Chroma-Q Color Force 72 LED battens. These battens were used to skim up the gauzes to establish the difference between when they were lit in different colours and when they weren’t. In the final scene of the play the gauzes are unlit for the first time and so the stage appears to be a black void.”
Leopoldstadt runs until 16th May 2020.
Neil concludes: “It’s been a privilege lighting such a beautiful and poignant piece of theatre. I am really grateful to my brilliant team which include Production LX Martin Chisnall, programmer Tom Mulliner and production manager Paul Hennessey. As ever, thanks once again to WL for supplying me with the fixtures I needed and for their great support.”
photos: Marc Brenner
13th February 2020
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