Week 4 is coming to a close. Already? I hear you say. Yep, I’m with you on that one.
This week I got chatting to Lizzie Powell, our Lighting Designer, and Mark Melville, our Sound Designer. I’ve always been fascinated by lighting and sound and how they work within a production. Lizzie explains to me, over lunch, that there has to be a relationship between lighting and sound because otherwise a piece would look and feel disjointed. When the two work together, they can deliver a sense of mood and mood change. Also on the technical side they can MIDI up together, meaning cues are more efficient. I always have time for a technical tip.
For Lizzie, lighting is one of many instruments in an orchestra, it can make a show feel whole and rounded. All directors work differently and approach texts differently, she tells me. For Human Animals it’s about fluidity, tinting light and going into realms of different colours that are very useful for the play. Lizzie loves being in the room for rehearsals, it gives a real sense of the mood of the play and informs her design. Lizzie says, simple is effective. If it doesn’t fit the show, you chuck it out.
Every show is like starting again, Mark tells me. It’s true, and it’s what I love about working in theatre, because with every project is a fresh canvas and a new world of ideas to immerse yourself in. For Mark, Human Animals is a fantastic and provoking play and likes the way our playwright Stef Smith explores complex ideas about the world through relationships and people. Mark tells me that he likes the thought that the audience will watch it and still be talking about it afterwards. Which is exactly you want, really. A story and a conversation.
Mark’s excited about the creative and interesting ways to use sound and music to tell the story and to explore the relationship between the inside and outside world. Story directly effects which instruments you use, how you record sound in the first place, the tone, how you mix sounds and affects the aesthetic and colour and sound. Personally, I love the way that sounds can be layered and can evoke a sense of place. Ultimately, choices are shaped by what kind of story you’re trying to tell, informed by the world the writer creates and the themes that are evoked by the scenes and the characters.
For both lighting and sound design the key stimuli are the script and the world the writer creates, directors world and the concept and vision or environment they are putting it in it. The journey, ultimately, is then how you as an artist thread that all together. Like a director, an actor and a writer, as a sound or lighting designer you’re being a storyteller, it’s just a different medium.
Both Mark and Lizzie tell me that, as designers, it’s about being selfless to some extent. It’s not a lighting or sound show, it’s about all of the art forms coming together to get the story across. I’m discovering that the creative process is like many different languages coming together to tell the same story in the most effective way.
This week I’ve been on book, reading in lines. The actors are so good though, soon they’ll be putting me out of a job. And now it’s 9:30am and I’m at the Royal Court Theatre. Today we’re going to do a full run in the Jerwood Upstairs space on our set. Here’s to another very productive day. Full steam ahead into tech week. See you on the flip-side.
Written by Sian Davila – Assistant Director