Chris Payne

White Light in Good Spirits for Ghost Stories UK Tour


Light has provided the lighting equipment for the UK tour of Ghost Stories, having

also supplied its recent West End run at the Ambassadors Theatre.







by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, Ghost Stories has been terrifying

theatregoers for over a decade. The show invites audience members to enter a

nightmarish world, full of thrilling twists and turns, where their deepest

fears and most disturbing thoughts are imagined live on stage; offering a

theatrical experience like no other. The lighting designer for the show is James

Farncombe, who comments: “What was clear from the outset was that the design

needed to be as much about the absence of light as much as anything else. I

really like this idea that it’s more of a darkness design and that, due to the

nature of the staging and the various tricks therein, I had to hide as much as

I revealed. Ultimately it’s all about creating that atmosphere for an







It was this

atmosphere that plays such an intrinsic role in what has given Ghost Stories

its worldwide reputation of terrifying audiences. So how do you make lighting

‘scary’? James explains: “It’s a combination of things. The lighting works

in tandem with Nick Manning’s extraordinary sound design. There is a

slow, shadowy build-up of tension. then each jump moment is part release,

part punchline, and all very much in the spirit of a B movie. To a large

extent, Ghost Stories is about the anticipation of

what might happen next, what might be lurking in the

shadows. When the show is firing on all cylinders, it really creeps up on the

audience. You could draw a parallel with Hitchcock’s idea that the

suggestion of things left unseen is far more potent than anything we can reveal

on stage or screen.  The scariest possible thing is always very particular

to an individual so, to a large extent, we expect the audience to populate

the shadows with their own fears”.







has worked on the show since it first started life at the Liverpool Playhouse

in 2010. And whilst there have been significant advances in lighting since

them, James has found himself drawing on more conventional fixtures ever since

that initial run. He comments: “As the show is now a decade old, it actually

predates my first encounter with LED fixtures such as Lustrs etc. Instead, the

rig is actually made up on conventional units with no scrollers and no moving

heads yet this is something that works to great effect. We spent a lot of time

managing spill and flare, so Source Fours became essential for precise

focussing, and they make up the bulk of the rig. In terms of other fixtures,

there are a number of birdies hidden in the set, a series of little LED strips,

a few practical lamps and three pinspots. Everything needed to be small as

there is very little room in the fly plot, or in the nooks and

crannies of the set pieces, so size was a big consideration”.






This marks

the first time that Ghost Stories has embarked on a UK Tour. As such,

James had to ensure his rig was completely tourable. He comments: “With the

show going up in two days in most venues, we have made a few nips and tucks

here and there. That said, it’s still more or less the same lighting rig as was

featured in last year’s Ambassadors run; largely thanks to Andy Taylor doing an

amazing job of making the impossible possible. That said, the show has gone

through almost ten years of slight development and distillation and we are now

at a point where we know the most effective set-up in which to scare our audience

members night after night…”.






Ghost Stories began its tour at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham and is currently playing at the Grand Opera House, York. It will continue to tour across the UK before concluding at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton in May 2020.