White Light Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Southwark Playhouse


White Light has recently supplied the lighting equipment for Ain’t Misbehavin’ which has recently opened at the Southwark Playhouse.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ celebrates the legendary jazz musician Fats Waller and his energetic, exuberant and effervescent music. Set largely in the music halls of 1920s Manhattan, it is directed by Tyrone Huntley and features a lighting design by James Whiteside. James comments: “Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a show that’s all about the music. There’s no narrative as such and the cast of five and on-stage band work really hard to celebrate Fat’s iconic sound. I wasn’t particularly familiar with his work so part of my preparation was listening to this, observing rehearsals and then working with other creatives to understand how the lighting could be used to support the show.

James continues: “Our designer, Takis, created a highly reflective gold set which, along with the music, suggested the rich, warm tone of the lighting. A highly reflective floor can sometimes be tricky to light, but rather than fight against this, I wanted to see what it could offer in terms of my design. For instance, whilst it does throw the light around a lot, in the context of this show it proved helpful as there are some lovely moments with performers caught in its reflection”.

The show is a co-production between Mercury Theatre Colchester, Paul Taylor-Mills and Tamasha Theatre Company. As a result, it initially opened at the Mercury in Colchester before transferring to the Southwark Playhouse; something James had to take into account for his design. He comments: “The Mercury and Southwark are two very different spaces. For the initial performances in Colchester, we added audience seating on stage to help replicate Southwark’s thrust stage; something which would prove useful in tailoring my design before we arrived in London”.

To acquire the fixtures he required, James contacted WL. He comments: “Thinking about the rig, I knew that moving lights for specials would be essential. I was keen to stick with tungsten sources due to the 1920s look and feel of show, hence the Martin Mac TW1s were an obvious choice. I would almost always use the narrow lens sets on the TW1s which we did in Colchester, but for Southwark’s much lower rig, we swapped to the standard lenses which worked a treat. To add some colour in the arches of the set upstage, we used seven Showline SL Strip 400 LED battens mounted vertically behind and to skim across each portal. WL also supplied some additional dimming for the chasing light bulbs around the portals, three 2kW fresnels to supplement Southwark’s in house rig and an ETC ION to run it all. So whilst this may not have been the most ‘state-of-the-art’ rig, it did need very specific fixtures – all of which WL was able to source’.

The show has now opened to critical acclaim and will run until 1st June 2019.

James adds: “As ever, creating the lighting is a team effort, so I am hugely grateful to my Associate Kiaran Kesby who also programmed the show in Colchester and Southwark. There’s also Mike Smith, our Production Electrician for Southwark, the crews at Southwark and Colchester and, of course, WL for their enduring support throughout”.

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