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White Light Goes Back to Beginning in West End

justine-mitchell-and-sam-troughton-beginning-credit-manuel-harlan-2Following a sell-out run at The National Theatre’s Dorfman, Beginning has recently transferred to London’s West End. Written by David Eldridge, the play is now running at the Ambassadors Theatre where it has once again received critical acclaim. It features a lighting design by Jack Knowles and White Light supplied the lighting equipment.

Beginning tells the story of 40-somethings Danny and Laura, with Danny being the last straggler at Laura’s house party. Despite the flat being a mess and the pair being worse for wear, will he stay for one more drink…? The entire play is told in real time and set in one location. Jack comments: “Beginning was great fun but also a challenge lighting one specific space. The main brief was to be true to the naturalism of the piece. There was a high focus on practical light sources amongst the set, used to create the basis for the environment of the space.  That said, we wanted to keep the feel of a naturalistic world and make everything 100% believable.

He adds: “As the show is set at night, there really is no progression of time passing from the exterior. Any change in state is brought on from the action of the characters, such as switching on a light in the kitchen, and this was all thoroughly investigated within the rehearsal process. There is no conveniently turning anything on or off as it is all done with an intention and a purpose; something I find brings a huge level of satisfaction and adds to the naturalism within the piece”.

sam-troughton-danny-beginning-credit-manuel-harlan-3At the National, Jack’s design consisted of ETC Lustr 2s, used in low angles to mimic the lamps within the room as well as keep the focus low and balanced. This was complemented with the Dorfman’s general rig of MAC TW1s, VL1100TS and VL550s. However, as the show transferred into the West End, certain adjustments needed to be made.

The transfer was mainly overseen by Jack’s Associate Lighting Designer Michael Harpur, who comments: “Prior to the transfer, Jack had redrawn his plan for the Ambassadors and we discussed the potential problems that may occur when trying to position existing fixtures into a new building. I worked closely with the venue’s Production Electricians and my Programmer Matt Somerville to try and recreate the Dorfman design in the Ambassadors”.

The main changes for the transfer included the replacement of VL550s to Martin TW1s as well as a range of ETC Source Four Series 2 Lustrs which were changed to Source Four Tungsten 750ws. Michael explains: “When we were fitting the show, we had to make a lot of calls as to what could stay and what needed amending. For instance, due to the height of the Ambassadors, we needed to replace the VL1100s with more fixed Source Fours. Our main goal was to ensure that, whilst we adapted to the venue, we stayed true to the original design.

justine-mitchell-laura-and-sam-troughton-danny-beginning-055-credit-manuel-harlanRegarding the West End run, Michael adds: “The key on Beginning was to keep the warm intimacy of the play and blend it into the auditorium. We did this by keeping the house light level slightly dimmed and by keeping the levels of the lanterns lighting the stage at a low warm glow throughout. The show should have felt as though there were very few lighting cues by subtly pulling focus to the areas where Justine and Sam were performing; something we were able to achieve in both venues”.

The show has now opened in the West End and will run until 24th March.

Jack adds: “It was fantastic to be working with a very supportive team at the Dorfman who fully bought into the show and the detail of it. It was also exceptionally useful being able to have Michael take the show into town as he not only knew what each fixture was doing but fully understood the aesthetic of the show”.

Photos courtesy of Manuel Harlan.