White Light Goes into the Cockpit with Sankara

Sankara is a new play telling the story of African hero and former President of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara. Written and directed by Ricky Dujany, it recently ran at London’s Cockpit Theatre and featured a live music performance by Levi Roots. As a leading lighting supplier to London theatre, White Light was called upon to provide the equipment.

The Lighting and Set Designer for the show was Salomé Bazin. She comments: “Sankara is a very powerful play and paints an ambiguous portrait of a revolutionary leader and his complicated relationship with Africa and the rest of the world. I was involved in the very early stages of the creative process with Ricky. We had several conversations about the epic story we were telling and wanted to find the most appropriate way in which to do this. By having the play in the round, we were able to create a much more intimate feel for both the audience and actors. Similarly, as the play is almost told in a documentary-style, we wanted to use a range of mixed medias which included video projection, a specific use of lights as well as a minimal set”.

To achieve this, Salomé approached the Hire Team at WL. She explains: “I wanted to recreate an immersive and quite naturalistic look, taking inspiration from my travels in West Africa. As a result, I decided to go for a bare stage with sand on the floor, with only a couple of props, and use light as the most important scenic element. The biggest challenge was to create an all-round projection which I managed to achieve by hanging vertical cycloramas in three points around the stage: two of them being an entrance for the actors. This created a strong parallel between the words of the actors and the real footage.

She continues: “Regarding the lighting equipment, I decided to use a mix of traditional equipment such as par cans and fresnels for environmental and face lighting, as well as LED sources to give control of the environment colour. I then chose the SGM P5 for the quality of colour mixing and compactness. It was important to have versatile equipment, and the P5 proved to be a great tool to change the mood. Additional profiles and Source Fours were selected for effects in particular scenes whereas the use of strobes and smoke added a particularly dramatic tone”.

The fact that the play was in the round meant that Salomé had to configure her design accordingly. She comments: “Lighting in the round is challenging, especially with a dynamic play such as this which is rich with movement and effects. In addition, I had to ensure that the actors were well lit throughout whilst sustaining the dramatic urgency. That said, I decided to use this intimacy to my advantage and actually drew on the house lights for one scene in which Sankara delivers a heartfelt monologue”.

The show ran earlier this year to critical acclaim and is likely to return later in 2018.

Salomé comments: “This is a very special show and it was fantastic to be able to play a part in it. I am also very grateful to Simon Arnold and the rest of the WL team for their support throughout”.

Photos courtesy of Cristina CriS.