White Light in West End with Brilliant Company


Directed by the Olivier Award-winning Marianne Elliot, Stephen Sodenheim and George Furth’s legendary musical Company has recently returned to the West End. Playing at the Gielgud Theatre, the show has opened to overwhelming critical acclaim and has already announced an extension to March 2019. As the leading lighting supplier to West End shows, White Light was called upon to supply the lighting.

Company tells the story of Bobbie whose friends and family can’t understand why she isn’t married. At her 35th birthday party, she questions the pressure to find the right person and finally settle down. The show is lit by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Neil Austin, who comments: “This is actually the second time I’ve lit Company, having worked on a version in Sheffield about eight years ago with Daniel Evans. It’s a show I love and was delighted to be asked to do it again. What’s brilliant about Marianne’s version is that she’s swapped the gender of the protagonist from male to female, from Bobby to Bobbie. As a result, it completely transforms the piece, giving it extraordinary currency and clarity”.

To create his design, Neil worked closely with Set Designer Bunny Christie. He explains: “Bunny came up with several designs, but the one we settled on was a series of open-fronted cubes; the smallest of which is around 9 by 9 feet. A five-sided box is a lighting designer’s worst nightmare, and we’ve got nine of them!  I added LED light boxes to the front fascia of each box to be able to blend or contrast to the interior, as well as LED tape around the inside of the box to help light the actors. We then cut small lighting slots in the front and back of each box’s ceilings and utilised small hidden units to highlight and add backlight”.

Neil approached WL to supply him with the exact lighting fixtures required for his intricate design. He explains: “I drew on my current favourite unit, the Martin MAC Encores, to light from the outside of the boxes, along with lots (and lots!) of GLP X4 Bars for both the interior box slots and exterior lighting. Other units included the ETC Source 4 Series 2 Lustrs as well as Viper NT Smoke Machines.

Neil adds: “The entire rig for Company was LED. This was glorious as it was extremely quiet whilst remaining very versatile. Whilst Company is a big show with loud numbers from the 15-strong band, there are lots of quiet scenes and nuanced moments and you can hear every single word said on stage in silence without interruption from fans”.

Company marks one of several shows that WL is currently supplying in the West End, including the recently opened Don Quixote, The Inheritance, Height of the Storm, Switzerland along with the upcoming True West. WL also continues to supply long-running smashes including Tina – The Musical, Matilda, Aladdin and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which was also lit by Neil.

Neil concludes: “I am very grateful to my brilliant team on this production, which includes Production Electrician Martin Chisnall and Programmer Daniel Haggerty. A big thanks also to WL for supplying me once again with the exact fixtures I required”.

Photos courtesy of Brinkhoff-Moegenburg