White Light has recently supplied the lighting equipment for the UK tour of Custody, a new-play looking at the issue of ‘stop and search’ within the BAME community.
Custody was first created back in 2017 by theatre company Urban Wolf. The story focuses on what the mother, brother, sister and lover of a man that has been killed in police custody go through after his death. Due to its urgent issues, it’s been revived for a 2019 run. It features a lighting design by Will Burgher, who comments: “This is a highly emotional show which offers an honest portrayal of what people go through in this situation. During the rehearsal process, Urban actually brought in people who’d experienced what the characters had and were able to workshop these real experiences into the show. With that in mind, it’s been a really special, poignant production to work on”.
Will collaborated closely with director Gbemisola Ikumeloand and designer Fran Horler to develop the look and feel needed for the show. He explains: “From the start, we wanted to use a lot of shadow and silhouette. As large portions of Fran’s set are white, it gave great scope to use deep saturated colours for different locations as well as stark white tones to give the sense that the play is happening in a police custody suite. There were also moments we needed to really suggest an exact location or time of day; something which was lighting-led on such an abstract canvas”.
Having used WL on several other projects, Will approached the company again for Custody. “From a practicality point of view, I wanted to keep the lighting rig to around 40 lights or less given there was a very short fit up time in each venue. With this scale of touring, there isn’t an unlimited budget so we toured some profiles with scrollers as our side light and a couple of FOH units. Scrollers are becoming less and less common so it was actually a great experience using them again!.
He continues: “The shift of colour temperature as a tungsten lamp dims down is such useful tool. Alongside this, we used some Elation LED pars on one of our truck pieces as there are various moments within the show that require actors to stand within it and be lit. These also proved useful to create the various effects which took place around the play’s main action”.
As the show visited several venues, this meant that Will had to develop a rig that would be suitable for the different specifications of each space. He comments: “Studio tours can often be somewhat challenging. For instance, the Studio theatre at the Crucible was in a very different format to the B2 in Coventry in terms of presenting an end on performance. As a result, I had to redraw some of the plans in order to ensure certain shots would work and that the audience would experience the same show in each city”.
The play opened at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry before touring to the Crucible in Sheffield, the Lawrence Batley in Huddersfield before arriving at the Ovalhouse in London. It has received critical acclaim for its approach to such a vital subject.
Will concludes: “It’s been a privilege to be involved in such an important project and begin conversations around an issue that isn’t often discussed. I’d like to thank WL for being so supportive of this production and making the process of hiring my equipment such an easy one”.
Photos courtesy of David Fawbert.