The Tempest – The Young Shakespeare Company, November 2016

Posted: December 30, 2016 in Lighting

The process for designing the Tempest began in the summer of  2016 when director Chris Geelan and designer Bridget Kimak started to talk about how the show should look. A number of iterations were created, with the final set model looking like this:


If not full of noise, then the isle is full of poles – of which more later. Clearly not a “contemporary” Tempest, and one of the costume shots for Ariel give a clue to the feel of the show.



It’s worth mentioning at this point that the YSC shows are aimed at school children and are presented in a shortened form – although the text within that shortened form is unaltered. The children that come to the theatre performance will almost certainly have had a workshop from the actors in the previous weeks and be briefed on the role they have to play during the show. So, Mr. Coker, what did you think of the play…

We tend to have long-distance production conferences at the YSC; Chris sits in his Bond-like HQ in north London running things; Bridget jets around the world covering opera singers in leather and I sulk in the north lighting any passing guitar  band or drum and bass act. Email and Dropbox are our tools. Chris and Bridget keep me up to date with their ideas and I read a copy of the script, bearing in mind that the script may change slightly during the workshops in schools. Looking at the set model and drawings I will begin to draw up a cue synopsis – a list of lighting events along with the time they happen in; it must be said that the timings are all rather guesses until I see how the actors work. Chris and I send the synopsis back and forth, with Chris adding ideas or correcting some of mine. By October the actors are beginning to perform their school workshops, so I will attend one to see how they are working and how they move about a very basic version of the set; an interesting point with the Tempest was that while the show in theatres was to be the traditional end-on staging, in the schools the staging was in the traverse – that is, with the audience either side of the acting space.

As ever with lighting a touring show using house lighting rigs, this is the Millfield’s, there is a balance to be made between how one thinks the show should look, what equipment the theatres have and how much time is available. For this tour I decided to use a minimal overhead rig with most of the lighting effects being generated by the equipment I was touring and placed on the floor. Thus, there was strong uplight, some cross-light and two  Martin  Atomic strobes. I also thought that a collection of Chauvet Freedom sticks would enliven events……


……sadly, these lasted until the lunchtime of our technical day when it was decided they didn’t really fit in with the rest of our non-illuminating poles. My final design ended up like this:


This, obviously, varied from venue to venue. The show opened in a venue where the backlight was all LED intelligent light, moved to a venue with only PARs as backlight but with additional moving spots and ended in a venue with a rather splendid LED lit cyc at the splendid Strode Theatre. Control throughout the tour was by ETC Ion, with me plotting and programming the show myself over the initial technical rehearsal and then relighting it on tour in the afternoon of our load-in day. Who says paper is dead…




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