Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities
No. 11 in a continuing series
While still at school in 1974, Durham Marenghi started his interest in lighting design at the amateur Preston Playhouse in Lancashire - the proud owners of a ten channel electronic lighting desk alongside Junior 8 rheostat dimmers. "I was given the pantomime to light," explained Durham, "and the local paper gave me my first ever review: 'atrociously lit by Durham Marenghi'. I took this as a personal challenge and have been trying to prove the critic wrong ever since."
Durham worked in provincial theatre at the Belgrade in Coventry and Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford before moving to the Young Vic in London as resident lighting designer. "For my first show I had nervously designed a very 'safe' rig. We sat down to start lighting and the director asked to look at every circuit and what it did. He then kindly informed me that there was nothing there he could use, told me to have another go, and said he'd see me later that evening!
"I now had two choices: resign, or persuade the crew to re-rig the entire show to my original, more innovative ideas and take the risk of being laughed out of the building. I took the latter course, the director returned and thankfully approved of the changes and the show garnered wide critical acclaim. I even got a review in The Times - 'the first of The Durham Marenghi's apocalypse like changes' - which was a distinct improvement on my first critique!"
Durham then moved to the Adelphi Theatre and freelanced lighting West End plays for which he was paid mostly in T-shirts and poster credits. "The car launch industry had just developed and the amazing Gary Withers had his Imagination offices across the road in Maiden Lane. Andrew Bridge, who I had met at Guildford, was Imagination's resident lighting designer and for the next five years I worked as production electrician for him and other top designers including the legendary Joe Davis. Joe is fondly remembered not only for his art but also for his fine sense of humour with quotes such as 'My wife didn't know I drank until one day I went home sober'."
Having made many friends and contacts Durham took the plunge into designing again, slowly building up a reputation, some of which was for lighting! For the past 20 years his work has taken him all over the globe. He has lit such diverse shows as the 'The Wall' in Berlin with Abbey Rosen, the closing ceremony of the Hong Kong hand over, stadium events in Oman, opera broadcasts from Red Square and a classical spectacular in Australia. He celebrates his seventeenth wedding anniversary next month with his wife Jennie and has two teenage children, Robert and Helen. He recently published a website featuring his work, and you can find this at www.durhamld.com
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