White Light Keeps The American Clock Ticking at Old Vic


White Light has provided the lighting equipment for Arthur Miller’s The American Clock which recently opened at the Old Vic Theatre, London.

The American Clock portrays the devastation that American citizens experienced when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began in 1929. The play uses an ensemble cast to explore the lives of several families across several cities. It is directed by the renowned Rachel Chavkin and features a lighting design by Olivier Award-winning Natasha Chivers. Natasha comments: “This is an epic play that manages to tell a huge story about an entire nation. Rachel wanted to create something quite extraordinary in which we put the audience right into this extraordinary time in American history. Part of this included having audience members on stage. What this means is that the Old Vic stage has now been turned so that it’s practically ‘in the round’. When I’ve lit shows here before it’s always been ‘end on’ so this was a new experience for me. My brief then became to ensure I adapted my design to the space and that the lighting was strong from both sides”.

To achieve this, Natasha looked at a range of different lighting options. She comments: “Initially, we toyed with the idea of using a tracking moving light system as well as followspots due to the fact that we needed to stay with the characters as they moved round the revolving stage. We eventually decided to go for one large moving light rig which would light everything. What’s really interesting about this play is that it’s a combination of your traditional Arthur Miller play coupled with music pieces (although it’s very much not a musical). As a result, it meant the design I created needed a mix of tungsten, LED and discharge lighting”.

Natasha would use the tungsten lighting for the play’s more traditional scenes whereas LED was used for the sparkly musical numbers and the discharge was used to create a glossy feel. She worked closely with WL’s Senior Account Handler Jedd Hamilton to draw on her ideal rig. This included Martin MAC Viper Performances, ETC Series 2 Lustrs, ROBE Robin DL7S Profiles, ETC Revolutions and Martin MAC TW1s.

Natasha explains: “I was really impressed with the ROBE DL7s which offered that perfect cross between serious moments and musical numbers. The TW1s provided me with the tungsten feeling I needed as did the Revolutions. I then drew on the Vipers to fill in for the longer shots”.

With the show being performed in the round, this meant that Natasha had to ensure the lighting worked from all angles. She explains: “During the technical set-up, the first thing we did was go to the circle section as we had to ensure we were lighting actors from both the standard auditorium (front) yet that these were also lit for the audience sitting on the seats upstage. When focussing the moving lights, this meant we could clearly see where the shadows were on the floor in order to then ensure we were on target”.

The American Clock has now opened and will run until March 30th 2019.

Photos courtesy of Manual Harlan.