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White Light Provides Lighting for The Philanthropist
UK – The Philanthropist has been delighting audiences across the globe since it first premiered at the Royal Court in 1970. It is now making a welcome return to the West End in a brand-new production at the Trafalgar Studios. Directed by Simon Callow, this latest version stars some of television’s brightest stars, including Matt Berry, Simon Bird, Lily Cole and Tom Rosenthal. Having already supplied shows at the Trafalgar Studios this year, White Light was called upon once again to provide the lights for The Philanthropist.
Written by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of Philip, a floundering professor of philology, who hosts a series of visitors with whom he discusses marriage, sex, anagrams and the meaning of life. Little do they realise that in the outside world the Prime Minister and his entire cabinet have been assassinated. The lighting designer is Olivier Award-winner Mike Robertson. He comments: “I remember seeing The Philanthropist many moons ago and being struck by the extraordinary coup de théâtre at the beginning of the play. For this version, Simon has approached it with a really fresh vibrancy, whether it’s the younger cast or the set, it feels like a very modern take on what is now a classic piece.”
This reinvention had an impact on Mike’s design and he worked closely with set designer Libby Watson. He states: “What’s brilliant about this set is that there is not a bad seat in the house and each one sees it from a different perspective. There is also a lot of clever trickery that occurs throughout. Therefore, my approach was to create a style of heightened naturalism. Whereas everything appears to represent reality in the theatrical sense, there is a slight change in the colour and quality of the source which hopefully makes the audience question what is the truth.”
Similarly, as the play is set in one room, Mike had to work alongside the practicalities of this. He states: “As there is a roof over the set, there’s actually not that many places to put lights. Also it is white so if you are not careful it can become a giant mirror. Similarly, the stage is pushed out into the auditorium meaning this limited the space for units even further. That said, my main consideration when choosing the rig was ensuring that it could colour mix, frame and make as little noise as possible.”
Mike drew on a mixture of ETC Revolutions, Martin MAC TW1s, ETC Source Fours and Philips Vari*Lite VL3500Q Spots for his rig. He also added additional house lighting within the Trafalgar in order to further the fresh feeling of the performance.
The show has now opened and will run until 22nd July.
Mike adds: “I’ve had a great time working on this revival alongside the warm staff at Trafalgar, particularly Michael Corcoran who is the venue’s Head of Lighting. I am also grateful, as ever, to WL for providing top quality service once again and supplying brilliant equipment in record time.”
photos: Manual Harlan
28th April 2017
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