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Tag Archive | "Lighting Design"

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Filskit Blog: A new year’s resolution for Filskit

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Filskit Theatre

The first week of January is always a little difficult. Going back to work after all the Christmas dinners and mince pies can be a struggle, but while recovering from the lethargy of the past two weeks, we are starting the new year as we mean to go on. In fact, it is becoming a bit of a tradition in the world of Filskit to make the first week of January an eventful one.

The start of 2010 was celebrated at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern as we lugged a piano across icy roads into the warm pub. The fact that most of London’s transport system had closed down due to the snow and another Filskit founder struggled on despite suffering from shingles made for an even more memorable time.

Last year we had a fantastic time at The Unicorn Theatre as part of the EMERGE project. It was this intensive week of creativity that put us on track to creating our first ever show with children in mind. Now, exactly one year on, we are looking to put the final touches to Snow White.

We have a glorious four days in one of the studios at Rose Bruford College, with equipment at our fingertips, to find a solution to our current lighting dilemmas. Our aim this week is to devise a lighting design in much the same way that we have devised the rest of the show – through playing.

Our decision to work with micro-projection was always going to create obstacles when it comes to lighting, too light and the projection is lost, too dark and the performers are lost. We need a lighting design that is dramatic, atmospheric and flexible, as well as enabling the audience to catch at least a glimpse of what is going on! This time yesterday we had no idea how we were going to do this, but that’s why they call it research and development.

In the past we have underestimated the effects of good lighting, often having to use a two-hour tech rehearsal to conjure up a basic design from what’s on hand, with the attitude of “as long as the audience can see, it’ll be fine”. It is an area that all three of us worry and stress over, then put to the back of our minds until it is absolutely necessary to deal with it. Perhaps this is because, until very recently, lighting was a scary unknown to us. We are a group of three performers and devisers without one technical bone between us, and we have spent many a technical rehearsal feeling a little redundant and intimidated.

When you’re a student in a drama school, lights appear and disappear and do pretty things as if by magic, you never really have to worry about it – or at least we didn’t. Then you are cast off into the big theatre world and you realise that you may have taken for granted all of those lovely resources you had access to as a student. As a small, ensemble-based company it is our job to fuss over every detail of the performance; we are not just performers and devisers anymore, we’re directors, producers and, as of today, lighting designers.

It is our New Year’s Resolution to conquer our company weak spot, never again do we want to utter the words “that’ll do” or “it’ll be fine” with regards to our lighting. We want to develop ourselves and our practice, which is why the opportunity to spend a few days messing around with lights is so exciting.

In any new company there are bound to be slight gaps in expertise, but this is where the power of collaboration really becomes apparent. Our gap is lighting. We have collaborated with lighting designers and technicians in the past, but many of our collaborators have had to give up freelance freebies in favour of salaried positions elsewhere – and who can blame them. So, in a climate where money is tight, we have adopted a DIY attitude. So far on our research and development journey we have learnt the basics of how to programme a lighting board, realised how to mix colours and floor lights, and have begun to realise the joys of light. One small step for man, but one very big leap for Filskit!

We will be keeping people updated about our research and development week through Twitter, Facebook and next week’s blog, when hopefully we will have our design in hand.

Filskit Theatre

Filskit Theatre

Filskit Theatre are an all-female ensemble with a passion for micro-projection. The company, Sarah Gee, Katy Costigan and Victoria Dyson, have been making work together since 2008. As graduates of the European Theatre Arts course at Rose Bruford they were brought together by their shared love of projection and cake.

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Marmite and mischief: Belt Up’s The Boy James

Posted on 04 January 2012 by Douglas Williams

“One of our more ‘Marmite’ shows,” is how Jethro Compton describes Belt Up Theatre’s current venture, The Boy James. “Some people hate it and some people absolutely love it.”

The Boy James began life in 2009 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a sideline to a programme of more high profile performances The Trial and Tartuffe. The show ran every other day and admitted an audience of only 25 people. Compton, who juggles his role as The Boy in the show with his responsibilities as both Producer and Lighting Designer, notes, “It’s weird that two years later we’re still doing it.”

It has become something of a flagship production for Belt Up. Returning to London for a three-week run in association with Southwark Playhouse (where Belt Up have been performing since 2009), the show will then journey to Australia to represent the company at the Adelaide Festival. But how will a new, international crowd take to Belt Up’s mischievous ways? The company is known for its unconventional staging and audience interaction and this show is no exception. (Read Lois Jeary’s review of Belt Up’s The Beggar’s Opera here and Editor Jake Orr’s review of Belt Up’s Macbeth here)

“Basically, the audience are invited into a study, where they prepare to go on an adventure,” explains Compton. “Whether that adventure does or doesn’t happen is not clear.” The Boy James is inspired by Peter Pan and the life of J.M. Barrie. The dialogue between the characters and the audience centres around the idea of growing up – or rather of not wanting to grow up. The character of James struggles throughout the play to bid farewell to his childhood self and put The Boy to rest. “It’s not a narrative show,” explains Compton. “It’s really bizarre in that way. It’s not storytelling in the way we usually tell stories. It’s all about the relationship that the audience has with the character of The Boy and how that starts and ends.”

Compton is quick to admit that this unconventional approach has divided critics. The Boy James has received criticism from some individuals. “I think that’s because it’s not the kind of show you can sit behind a notepad and write about,” says Compton. “You need to be feeling it.” In stark contrast to the negative responses, one of the best endorsements The Boy James could have received came from Stephen Fry on Twitter. He was one of many who left the show at the end of an evening in floods of tears. According to Compton, it can be anything from one audience member with a tear in their eye to the whole lot sobbing. With Fry, (“Just been knocked out by The Boy James – still drying my eyes”) the company struck gold. (Read Editor Jake Orr’s own take on The Boy James here)

“To have the Stephen Fry thing – that gave the show a boost and allowed us to continue doing the show,” remembers Compton. “It’s quite an amazing thing to have the Fry quote because people read The Guardian or whatever paper they read and when they read a bad review they will trust it. When Stephen Fry comes out with a positive quote, people think ‘Well I like him and he likes that so therefore maybe I will like that’.”

It’s easy to consider the mounting pressure on a young company such as Belt Up. Two 5-star sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and some high profile admirers must make for high expectations. “We try not to think about that too much,” says Compton. “We started making the work that we wanted to make, telling the stories that we wanted to tell. We’ve always tried to keep that at the centre of it.”

The question of how a production translates from a Fringe stage to a London one is also crucial. When Belt Up made the transition, it found its work didn’t impress quite so effortlessly as it had done before. “When we came to London for the first time, we weren’t just a fringe company that people quite liked,” explains Compton. “There was an expectation of our work. People were like ‘Well there are  loads of young companies – what’s different about you?’ and so when people were blindfolded and thrown into a space, they were a bit like ‘Oh no, not this again’.”

Returning to Edinburgh in 2010 brought its own daunting level of expectation from audiences. Coming back after a prior season peppered with glowing reviews, the company were met with an attitude that Compton describes as “Go on then – impress us.” But the company is still young, still learning and still prone to making mistakes – and so it should be. If, as Compton points out, an audience enters a space with ridiculous expectations, viewers are unlikely to drop their guard even with the ten minutes of participatory childhood games that start the show.

Adopting the role of producer for a young company, as Compton has, adds another dimension of pressure. “I never wanted to be a producer,” Compton recalls. “It just kind of happened. I did the lighting which led to doing all the technical side of things which led to being a production manager and doing budgets, and I then ended up realising that the thing I enjoy doing is producing. The more I did it, the more I realised it’s actually what I want to do.” Being taken seriously is still the challenge with which Compton most identifies. He clearly believes that producing is not a skill you can learn on a course – you learn through doing. And there is support available to young producers.  The office from which he works is provided by Stage One, a trust set up to help the next generation of commercial producers. So why aren’t more young people getting into production right now?

“Some people see producers as facilitators, which is not what I do,” says Compton, engaging with the common misconception that producers deal only with logistics. “I have an interest in taking a show that I like or coming up with an idea and then putting it together. And the great thing about being a producer is that I don’t have to wait for someone to give me a job. I know so many young people out there who are unable to get work and I don’t have to worry about that because I’m the one making the work happen. It’s a great feeling, especially if the work is successful.”

The Boy James is being performed in association with the Southwark Playhouse from 25 January – 11 February. It is a site-specific piece being performed at The Goldsmith, 96 Southwark Bridge Road. Tickets are on sale now, available here.

Image credit: Belt Up Theatre

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The Theatre of 2010 – My Hopes

Posted on 31 December 2009 by Jake Orr

Whilst people are making their New Year Resolutions, and institutes are celebrating what 2009 held for theatre listing the best of the best, and even the worse of the worse… I’m looking beyond all of this. We’ve already seen several Hot Tips appearing for theatre in 2010, and with new season announces each week the anticipation for the first big sellers is getting exciting. For me, I’m hoping 2010 will see the start of change in theatre.

So without further hesitation, here are A Younger Theatres’ Hopes for Theatre in 2010…

#1 Continued West End Ticket Sales – Recession was a hot topic on everyone’s lips during 2009. We saw numerous companies go into Administration and disappear off our high streets. Purses and wallets were firmly kept shut, yet somehow the West End saw an increase in ticket sales and remarkably out riding the recession. They say that theatre is a form of escapism and perhaps audiences were inclined to spend their money on musicals and plays to forget their woes. Whatever the reason, let’s hope that 2010 continues with the sales and theatre shows us what it is really made of during finical crisis.

#2 Lighting In The Lime Light – The forgotten talent in theatre. I hope that in 2010 lighting gets the recognition that it readily deserves, that critics take up their pen and paper and focus on how these wonderful shows they are writing about are seen through the designs painstakingly made by lighting designers. It’s as if this area of theatre gets completely lost in the lime light of the actors who are being lit. Lighting is atmospheric, stunning and highly creative – so lets see people talking about it more, instead of leaving it in the dark. (Let’s also hope the lighting puns/jokes stop too… lime light?! What was I thinking?)

#3 Younger People Breaking Through – The very nature of this blog is for myself to have a platform to express my thoughts and feelings on something that I completely adore. I admit wholeheartedly I am young, at 21 years old, and writing about theatre in the best fashion I can. 2009 has taught me that there is a gap within theatre that is slowly being filled with the younger generations, be it through youth theatres gaining greater success, or the new breed of playwrights getting younger. What I hope for though is that we start to see the written form of the younger generations as critics such as myself having a greater platform in discussing both theatre and the arts.  We might not have the many years of theatre under our belts like Billington, but we do come with passion and a whole new point of view. 2010, let it be the Year of the Younger Generations!

#4 Internships On Top – The recession might not have dampened ticket sales in the West End but jobs in the arts are drying up, where a single advertisement can get several hundred people applying. 2009 saw the boom in the Internship, something I discuss here. My hopes for 2010 is for Internships to continue with the increasing number of applicants but also to begin to evolve with this demand. Internships allow for much learning, but lets not squash that learning by it becoming the norm. Let 2010 keep Internships on top form.

#5 Ecofriendly Theatre – Our climate is changing, but what are theatres doing about it? The Arcola Theatre is one of the leading theatres in taking the green initiative and adapting their theatre to tackle climate change. I hope that 2010 sees other theatres taking up the greener side of theatre – LED Lights anyone? What more, I’d like to see bigger theatres doing their bit and proposing how they will tackle a more enviromentally friendly theatre for 2010.

#6 Social Media For Better - Phenomenons such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way theatres are now engaging with their audiences. We saw the first devised opera through the means of Twitter – a great collaboration between audience and the Royal Opera House. Twitter has enabled theatres to tell us more, to give insights into what lies behind the walls, deep in the offices and backstage areas. It has allowed voices to emerge from the depths of theatres. Let’s hope 2010 brings more engagement with audiences through the joys of Social Media, and better improvement on how it is effectively used in marketing campaigns.

#7 The London Fringe Festival – The talk of the town after an announcement was made that there is to be the London Fringe Festival in August 2010. What can I say to this? My hope is simply this: The organisers realise that their attempts at putting on a Fringe Festival in London during August when the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is taking place is barbaric. If they want to make this a success, they have to base their model on something that is not already in place. My hope for 2010 is that this festival either completely flops or completely blows all our minds. Whatever the outcome – let it be a lesson learnt. (Let’s also hope for a better website, better organisation, and better ideas for this 2010 Fringe Festival…)

So here are a few of my hopes for the Theatre of 2010… what are your hopes?

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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