I enjoy a technical challenge as much as any geek does and I can only describe this play as a melody of technical difficulties and unexpected occurrences which ultimately resulted in a brilliant and memorable show.
Any technically demanding show requires skill to light but the difficulty level is increased when there is a shortage of the necessary equipment.
For this production I was the lighting designer as well as the technician so it is up to me to meet the demands of this Patrick Barlow adaptation.
The fact that the play was performed in the round made the lighting that much harder. The director wanted a diagonally split stage which isn’t as simple as it may sound, especially with only eight lanterns and the audience seated right on the edge of the stage, more on that later. Plus an explosion effect and a central spot light.
The design I finally settled upon (illustrated) was; mount one lantern on the end of each lighting bar. Four lanterns would handle each half of the split stage and by borrowing a technique I had used in my AS Level drama exam, of directing each lantern in a spiral I could keep the glare out of the maximum number of the audiences’ eyes whilst ensuring that all sides of the actors face would be lit. Four spot lanterns would also be used to make up each side the centre stage spot plus four flood lanterns to create the effect of an exploding biplane (not-illustrated).
These were the “technical difficulties” however they were nothing that couldn’t be solved with good planning. The “unexpected occurrences” for me, came in the form of a rather temperamental smoke machine. I say “temperamental” as it had a of releasing tiny puffs of smoke at random intervals, after which it would refuse to operate as required for about thirty seconds.
Fortunately the play was a spoof so this occasionally added some hilarity.
With well over one-hundred lighting cues this was a joy to design and operate whilst being very funny.