White Light Conjures Lighting for Magic Goes Wrong


Light has supplied the lighting for Magic Goes Wrong, which recently

opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End.






Created by the award-winning

Mischief Theatre and magic legends Penn & Teller, Magic Goes Wrong

focuses on a hapless gang of magicians trying to host a charity fundraiser –

with hilarious results. It features a lighting design by David Howe, who is

lighting several of Mischief Theatre’s other shows. He comments: “The basis of

the show is that it’s very much a slick variety show where everything should technically

run smooth. However, the magicians and acts who perform aren’t the most skilful

which results in everything going wrong… As ever with Mischief, it’s a very

slick and fast-paced show. Set Designer Will Bowen created a very

‘variety-looking’ stage, complete with glossy floor, big theatrical tabs and

glitter-drapes. There is also a large video wall at the back of the space

which is used to introduce the acts as well as add texture, with a brilliant

video design by Duncan McLean.






He continues:

“Taking all of this into consideration, my design has three goals. The first

was to support the ‘variety show’ feel, with strong washes of colour, lots of

comedy face light yet still be suitable for camera work. The second was

ensuring that the portals and flown drapes received lots of lighting in order

to make them ‘zing’ and ensure we maintain that light entertainment feel we’re

used to seeing on TV. Thirdly, there was the wider brief of lighting the

various tricks and keeping them ‘magical’ whilst still allowing the comedy to







Knowing the look

and feel he had to achieve, David approached WL who is also supplying the

Mischief Theatre tour of Comedy About a Bank Robbery. He explains: “I

worked closely with WL’s Customer Service Team Leader Andy Cullen and Customer

Service Account Handler Jade Johnson who were extremely helpful when it came to

choosing the appropriate fixtures. Due to the theatre space being tight, I knew

I needed a versatile rig. As such, I drew on the Martin MAC Encores,

Martin Aura XBs, MAC Viper Washes, Clay Paky Sharpy Washes, Chroma-Q Colour

Force 48 LED Battens, GLP Impression X4 Bar 20s, ETC ColorSource Spot LEDs and

Source Fours. These worked perfectly for both the production and venue’s

requirements. Whilst it is a loud show, at times, we need total silence in

order for some of the brilliant jokes to work. With this rig, we can truly

achieve that and help move both the action and comedy forward.






He adds: “We programmed the lighting on an ETC Eos Ti

Console and the show runs on a Gio. I knew the control aspect of the show was

going to be important as so many different elements are all linked together.

Lighting additionally triggers video content and switching for

cameras and playback. This, in turn, at times is triggered from sound and

keeps sync with time-code, Midi and even the old-fashioned Stage Manager

calling cues. Lighting also, on occasion, triggers a wide range of set and

prop items that move, swing, drop and add to the comedy, so it has to be a

tight and secure network”. 






Whilst the rig

featured a range of fixtures that played equally important roles, there was one

in particular that was pivotal: the followspot. David explains: “The humble

followspot is obviously not the most innovative fixture but was an essential

item for the style of this production. I wanted a central followspot position

in the upper circle so we had to work closely with Nimax Theatres in creating a

position which avoided losing precious seats and didn’t cause issues with the

building and stringent listing issues. So we found the old followspot box

that had been (some years ago) converted into a staff bathroom and repurposed

it. The result, thankfully, looks incredible and I’m grateful to the theatre

for being so accommodating!”. 






Prior to its West End run, the show ran The Lowry theatre in

Salford. David comments: “With a show like this, it’s forever evolving. The

space in Manchester was quite similar to the West End in width so this acted as

a good template. That said, the show was constantly changing in previews so the

equipment set-up has to be such that we can re-light a scene or create

something entirely new on the spot which allows the writers (who also are

currently performing) to see how the show plays with those changes. It’s

incredible how much the content of the show has changed since those initial

previews in Salford; which of course has completely changed aspects of my







Following its

recent opening, Magic Goes Wrong has just announced that it will extend

its West End run until August 2020.






David concludes: “As always, it’s brilliant working with the

Mischief team and contributing to a show that creates two hours of

non-stop laughter every night. It was also great working with WL once again and

their ever-helpful Hire team; especially Andy and Jade”.






Lighting Team Credits

Lighting Designer – David Howe
Programmer – Stuart Cross
Lead Production Electrician – Ed Locke
Prod Electricians – Nick Wooley, Theo Chadha, Barry Abbots, Joe Crossley, Alex Matthews.
Assistant Lighting Designer – Alex Musgrave (Part of the ALD Lumiere Scheme for 2019)
Followspot Operator – Virginie Serneels
Production Manager – Tom Nixon