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It’s Panto Season Again for White Light. Oh Yes It Is!

It’s Panto Season Again for White Light. Oh Yes It Is!
It’s Panto Season Again for White Light. Oh Yes It Is!

UK – White Light is supplying the lighting equipment to more than 25 pantomimes and Christmas shows this festive season.

For many theatres, Christmas marks their busiest time of the year, as stages up and down the country fill with dames, beanstalks, ugly sisters and flying carpets. A firm favourite in the panto world is Peter Pan and WL is supplying productions at Birmingham Rep, Brighton Metropole, Epsom Playhouse and Tunbridge Wells’ Assembly Hall Theatre. The production at Epsom Playhouse is being lit by Simon Banks, who comments: “My brief for the show was actually very open, with the only request being that we managed to get across a period feel for the more traditional story elements whilst being able to go ‘full panto’ for the big production numbers and set pieces. When working on pantomime, I’ve often found that less is more and you can really play with the audience’s responses by more traditional creative means such as shifts of mood and emphasis.”

In terms of other popular productions, WL is going to the ball with Cinderella at Norwich Theatre Royal, Cambridge Arts Theatre and The Hexagon, Reading, whereas Jack and the Beanstalk is entertaining audiences at Harlow Playhouse, Eastbourne Theatres and The Harlequin Theatre, Redhill. Snow White is playing at Pavilion Theatre Rhyl and the Beck Theatre, Hayes whereas Aladdin is at The Anvil, Basingstoke. Mother Goose is thrilling audiences at the Millfield Theatre and The Marlowe, Canterbury, whilst Robin Hood is on stage at Salisbury Playhouse. WL is also supplying several versions of A Christmas Carol, including an immersive production at IMMERSIVE LDN along with a version at the Old Vic, which WL is supplying for the third year running.

Having previously lit Jack and the Beanstalk at Salisbury Playhouse, lighting designer Nic Farman is back at the theatre this year to light Robin Hood. He comments: “With Robin Hood, I was tasked with using bright and bold colours to help create the world of Sherwood Forest and the Sheriff of Nottingham’s Castle. With the design relying on saturated colours and bright beams, I knew I wanted a flexible and dynamic rig. Overhead was a combination of Mac III Profiles and GLP X4 Washes which gave me great options for colour and gobo washes. A side light and pipe end rig of ETC ColorSource Profiles allowed me to have a fully flexible stage wash which was combined with Chroma-Q Color Force 12 and 72s to light the portals and cloth tops. At front of house, there were a number of Martin MAC Viper Performances to give me a full stage and cloth gobo wash. All of these allowed me to achieve the bold looks I wanted; something that lighting a panto often encourages you to do.”

Alongside pantomimes, many theatres are also staging more traditional Christmas shows. One of these is Treasure Island, which is a Bolton Octagon Theatre production being performed at the Macron Stadium. The lighting designer is Johanna Town, who comments: “My brief for this show was to light the piece as naturally as possible and treat most of the song changes with soft shifts. The venue, which was obviously not your traditional theatre space, had a false stage with no access equipment allowed. As such, all the overhead rig had to be moving lights and due to power requirements, had to be almost all LED. I chose ETC LED profiles and Auras as my main wash lights and then had some GLP X Bars as overhead toplight to work in the songs and give a soft wash for the scenes. I also added Vipers for additional atmosphere. Similarly, the scenery was a large landscape flatage representing walls and clouds and mountains, which was then washed using Robert Juliat Dalis 860s due to their incredible short throw.”

For Johanna, working on a show like this not only varies from a standard theatrical production in terms of the creative brief, but also due to the impact it can have: “For Christmas shows, it’s vital that you make it exciting for its young audience, introduce lots of looks and images they can take away, and hopefully initiate a love for theatre and live performance. I think any show for children should feel exciting and have lots of imagination for them to enjoy, which is the pleasure of designing a Christmas show.”

Another show that WL is supplying the lighting for is The Nutcracker which is currently running at the Theatre Royal Portsmouth. Lighting designer Adam King takes us through his process: “Part of my brief is transporting the audience into the world of the Nutcracker from the moment they walk into the auditorium; something I’m able to achieve by softening the house light system and adding more colour. In terms of the show itself, my main role was to make each location featured feel ‘magical’ every time the characters visited. As the set remains largely the same, it’s my job to make sure the audience followed the narrative through the changes in light, as well as offer those moments of magic throughout.”

Whilst WL is supplying a host of Christmas shows this year, the company is still extremely busy with non-festive productions. In the West End alone, the company is providing the lighting for a multitude of newly-opened shows, including Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse, Amélie at The Other Palace, Touching the Void at the Duke of York’s, Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse along with the soon-to-open Les Misérables at the recently refurbished Sondheim Theatre. The company is also supplying a range of festive events, such as the numerous outdoor ‘Christmas at’ which include Bedgebury, Belton, Blenheim, Dunham Massey, Edinburgh, Kew Gardens and Stourhead.

WL’s managing director Bryan Raven comments: “It’s been another incredibly busy year here at WL in which we’ve cemented our position as the leading lighting supplier to West End and UK touring theatre. It’s a fitting end to a great twelve months to be working across the country on a range of festive shows, supplying lighting designers with the exact equipment they need. We’d like to say thanks to all of those who’ve drawn on our services in 2019 and we look forward to working with you once again in the new year.”

photos: The Other Richard 

17th December 2019

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