Ali Wright

White Light Supplies You Stupid Darkness! at Southwark Playhouse

White Light has supplied the lighting for You Stupid Darkness! which recently opened at the Southwark Playhouse, London.






Presented by

Paines Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth, You Stupid Darkness! is an

urgent new play set within the Brightline Call Centre and focuses on four

colleagues who try to keep their lives together whilst the outside world falls

apart. The Lighting Designer on the show is Peter Small, who comments: “My brief for this production was that

it shouldn’t feel ‘lit’; meaning I wanted it to feel as natural as possible to

the audience. The concept was that you had sort of peeled the wall off this

strange office and were peering in from a dark place, somewhat ‘fly on the

wall’. This concept meant working closely with Set Designer Amy Jane Cook and

adding in masking which would allow me to drop the rig very low and hide it

away from the audience. As this was a dystopian piece, I also had to have a rig

that would allow for bursts of surrealism, alongside the hyperrealism.”






And whilst

the show is dealing with large issues, the production itself was all about the

smaller details. Peter explains: “The set is the same location throughout and

also very naturalistic. Therefore a lot of my lighting had to showcase a

passage in time, as this was often the only indication in between scenes. I did

this by varying the background from return to return; sometimes the computer

was on, sometimes the lamps were on and off, sometimes someone left the main

light off but forgot to turn the kitchen light off etc. The show also starts

very brightly and intentionally gets darker as the situation worsens for our

characters. I don’t think moments of ugliness or shadows creeping in are a bad

thing; in fact, it’s something we celebrated with this show”.






Knowing the

creative and practical brief that he had to achieve, Peter contacted WL and

worked closely with Senior Account Handler Louise Houlihan and Account Handler

Hugh Kemp to decide on his perfect fixtures. He explains: “With a show like

this, you have to put a lot of thought into every single fixture you draw on

and make sure it earns its place. Par cans are the focal point, providing a 4×4

grid of ‘pipe end’ with a heavy diffusion as this 4×4 set up gets around the

set obstacles. Dimmable CFLs then echo this concept but in a ’top light’ sort

of way, as they are also used as strobes. The Acclaims did a great job

suggesting some spotlights on a track like you might find in an office; again,

emphasising the natural realism. Generically then anything coming in from

outside had to be a Profile to cut around the metal work on the set. 






He adds: “We used 500w Fresnels for footlights with Source Four Pars, mainly due to their form factor but also the fact that they were a great source for candlelight in the later scenes. The windows all received Chroma-Q Color Force 48s, with the cell control important for us to suggest the various changes that were happening outside the space. A fistful of Data Flashes were used for either a spot effect or backlight strobing the audience whilst Nitro strobes on the advanced bar allowed for a strong front blast. We also had a curtain of ACLs as we cannot achieve a full blackout due to the candles hence the curtain provided a somewhat framing metaphor. Alongside this, we had multiple smoke and haze machines, multiple AF1 fans, a swirl fan, snow machine, an exploding kettle, electro magnets, collapsing desk and a lot of LED tape”.






The show

originally ran at Theatre Royal Plymouth before transferring to London. As

such, Peter had to make certain adjustments to his design. He explains:

“Whenever you move venues, your design is obviously going to change. For us,

this mainly came in the form of unit quantity, rigging and infrastructure. When

we arrived in London, I had to work closely with my Production Electrician Doug

Finlay to go through the show file and calculate the maximum power consumption

and channel usage. Following this, rather than cut the rig, we wanted to make

sure we used alternatives and paired fixtures where we could. Thankfully, the

team at WL was extremely useful in suggesting which units we draw on and I even

ended up adding some moving lights to the rig”. 






The show has

now opened to rave reviews and will run until 22nd February 2020.







concludes: “It’s been fantastic to revisit this brilliant, highly-relevant show

and bring it to a London audience. Often transfers can be tricky but thankfully

I had a brilliant team in Doug, Tom Davis (Programmer) and, of course, WL who

supported me every step of the way”.