Marc Brenner

White Light Supplies Lighting for Donmar Show Teenage Dick







White Light has recently supplied the

lighting on Teenage Dick; the critically-acclaimed production which is

currently running at the Donmar Warehouse.






Making its UK debut, Teenage Dick

is a darkly comic take on Richard III and is directed by the Donmar’s

Artistic Director Michael Longhurst. Set in an American high school, it tells

the story of Richard who, after years of torment due to his hemiplegia, plots

the ultimate rise in power: become president of his senior class. The show

features a lighting design by Sinead McKenna who comments: “My brief on Teenage

Dick was to create the feeling of a bright and brash ‘high school movie’

meets dark European stark expressionism. It was actually a real joy to mash up

these two styles and experiment with what could be achieved. The play is also

set in a gym and Chloe Lamford’s set really makes you feel like you are walking

into an actual school gymnasium. I wanted to make sure my lighting didn’t work

against that but rather embraced it”.











To achieve this, Sinead wanted to use

predominately LED washes and spot units to provide colour pop and sheen for the

fun glossy high school vibe, which could then morph easily into a stark, cold

brash white light. She explains: “Projected light was a major element of the

design aesthetic, and I needed to be able to work with video designer Andrzej

Goulding and match the quality of light being projected. Also, the main

character, Richard, often uses direct address to the audience. He summons a

spot for these addresses in a pastiche of the direct address to camera motif

employed in 90s high school movies which we were delightedly drawn on for

inspiration! What’s great is how the actor, Daniel Monks, interacts with the

technology in these moments, and we really allowed this relationship to develop

and morph throughout the tech process”.






Sinead then approached WL to supply her with the lighting fixtures she required. She explains: “We used Ayrton’s Ghibli LED Spots to create the classic sharp edge ‘spotlight’ for the direct addresses. They can achieve a really stark, almost arc-light quality which was exactly what was needed for this piece. They’re also really versatile and worked well with the rest of the rig for shaping the space and working alongside the other units as colour washes when used soft. Grid space was at a premium so it was important that the differing units could work together seamlessly.











Sinead continues: “Alongside this, I used GLP Impression X4s overhead for colour washes and two at a very low angle from the front which were used for various effects, including bouncing off mirrored back wall. ETC ColorSource LED Profiles worked alongside the generic rig to create coverage for the space. I also hung some fluorescent box fixtures retro-fitted with LED from above that helped create the ‘roof’ of the school gym, while still allowing me to colour mix to create varying tones. There were also some terrifically cheesy gobo moments for high school prom lighting!”.






Alongside achieving the feel needed

for the show, Sinead also had to accommodate her design to fit the intricate

Donmar space. She comments: “The space can potentially be tricky as it is on

three sides so can be quite difficult to create the dramatic single source

looks that were required at times whilst still giving each side of the house an

interesting picture! On the other hand, the lighting often had to feel open,

diffused and harsh like fluorescent lighting in a real gym, while still being

contained enough to focus down to the playing space. So, in that respect, it

was quite a balancing act! It also has quite a high rig for the size of the

space which can result in very steep angles and make lighting the cast a little

tricky. That said, after working out the various angles, this is something

we were able to overcome”.






Teenage Dick has now opened to rave reviews and

will run until 1st February 2020.






Photos courtesy of Marc Brenner.