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.