White Light is Down and Out at the Orwell Foundation


On 6th June, George Orwell’s classic book Down and Out in Paris and London was brought to life in an immersive performance at Stone Nest in London’s West End. The event was a collaboration between The Orwell Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Libby Brodie Productions and UCL’s Festival of Culture. Having supplied last year’s unabridged reading of Orwell’s 1984: LIVE, White Light was called upon to provide the complete technical solutions on this occasion.

Down and Out: LIVE was supported by Arts Council England and featured a lighting and projection design by Robbie Butler, who also designed 1984: LIVE. Robbie comments: “The brief for the show was focused heavily on the video design. I worked closely with the brilliant director Hannah Price who spoke to me about her thoughts on the type of projection she wanted to see, along with other concepts she wanted to experiment with throughout the five hour-long script”.

Whereas 1984: LIVE was a reading of Orwell’s novel from start to finish, Down and Out: LIVE offered a slightly different interpretation. Robbie explains: “Whilst the project was constructed around extracts from Down and Out, these were interspersed with poetry and testimonies from people who are currently homeless; with the text still being extremely relevant in today’s society. Because it’s a marathon of an event, it’s quite difficult to plan intricately given the short lead-in period (we had a week of rehearsals for a five hour show). I had to devote most of my preparatory time making and rendering the video content. Additionally, because much of the action was improvised or potentially needed to be altered as a result of the immersive audience layout, the lighting rig had to be versatile; resulting in the show being busked from a bank of pre-defined presets”.

Robbie approached WL to supply him with his perfect rig. He comments: “Versatility was key. I had two generic Source Fours for the readers and four Lustr 2s to act as a general wash in the centre of the room and cover the two platforms at either end. I used wireless uplighters to accentuate the building’s architecture and four JB A5s to help highlight certain areas of the playing space as needed. And, of course, there was also a Unique Hazer there for good measure – along with some festoons!”.

WL also supplied the rigging, headsets, speakers, projection and sound desk. All of the equipment was delivered to Stone Nest the day prior to the event and was set-up on-site on the morning of performance.

Robbie adds: “Stone Nest is an incredible venue. A former chapel, the interior features beautiful red brick walls and concrete gothic arches and windows. Architecturally, it’s a dream to light because it just looks like a really well built set. What isn’t ideal is that we had quite a large amount of light leakage on what turned out to be a sunny performance day. However, as a found space, you could really do some interesting things with it and it was great to work on a show there”.

The event was completely free to attend and live-streamed to a global audience, whilst also being screened in libraries across the UK.

Robbie concludes: “As always, WL were on top form and proved to be absolutely invaluable in getting this event off the ground. Their support really is second to none”.

Photos courtesy of Robin Boot Photography.