Lighting Designer Amelia Lever-Davidson tells us about her work on The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You.
How would you describe the lighting design you’re creating for The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You? What is the world of this play?
While preparing a lighting design, I create and devise rules for myself around how light appears and functions in the play. For this production, I have attempted to use lighting to create two very different worlds that each has their own unique language and logic.
While creating the design, I was drawn to the way that we experience interior spaces verses exterior ones. In Part One, the audience are abruptly moved through a number of ‘real’, mostly interior, spaces. The lighting inside of the set will often shift with the locations so the audience can register the different qualities of light that may exist in these spaces – e.g. the fluorescent lights of a gallery, the glow of a television, the warm interior glow of a house.
The forest will have a completely different lighting logic. I’m not creating a real forest, but rather an environment that can support Connor’s journey. The lighting is reflecting the way light appears and functions in a forest, so we are able to explore using more non-naturalistic lighting, such as side light, to help us create a more wild and magical space. While light in the forest does not reflect a real place, a sense of time passing from day to night remains important structure to the story telling. The lighting will help the audience register time passing through the use of colour, angle and direction.
The lighting design will also reflect the transformation of the set design. As the set design begins to fragment and splinter, the lighting will also begin to strip itself back from the fullness of a ‘real’ space towards a more abstract, expansive and austere environment. Light will be used to help shift our perception of the space and how we have previously experienced it.
What kinds of lights are you using in your design?
The lighting design makes use of a mixture of tungsten and LED fixtures to help create a palette in which I can work from and create a number of looks.
Different fixtures bring with them different qualities of light and capabilities.
I have chosen a number of coloured LED fixtures, which are used as practicals within the set. Using LED fixtures allows me to create a number of highly colourful looks that can change very quickly. The fixtures are very small which allow them to be concealed easily in the set.
The classic tungsten theatre lights allow light to move in a different way by using the gentle fade that these lights are known best for. They also have the ability to shape and control the beam more easily.
In your opinion, what is the play about? How does your design support the play’s big ideas?
For me the play is a really fun and fiery portrait of being a teenager. Through the eyes of Connor, the audience is granted access into the time in adolescence when we are beginning to grow into our new identity as an adult, but when we still don’t yet quite have the tools, or the vocabulary, to properly occupy this new place in the world.
In Part One, there is a level of self-consciousness in the way lighting is behaving in the space, as it needs to keep up with the way Connor is choosing to tell us the story. We see the world through his eyes, and the intensity and quality of the lighting changes are controlled and instigated by him. Once we are in the forest, Connor is no longer in control of the theatrical devices he made use of in the beginning of the play. The lighting becomes more gentle and spacious, supporting the time and space Connor needs to come to terms with his place in the world.
Is rhythm an important consideration in your work? How do rehearsals affect your designs?
Lighting in its simplest form is a storytelling device. As a designer, I’m trying to find the best way that I can help tell the story. Lighting design was once described to me as being similar to the role of film editor, as we are often controlling the rhythm of the storytelling.
The way in which lighting designers control rhythm is in the way light moves in the space. Light transitions can act like a ‘jump cut’ where it quickly lands us in another location, or we slowly transport the audience through a soft fade in which we can register the shift in light.
The play has a very specific rhythm that it asks the creative team to respond to. Part One is fast and furious with many very short scenes that need to appear and disappear very quickly. The rhythm can feel very abrupt as we quickly move the audience through a series of snapshots. As Connor is responsible for the storytelling, the creative team need to rhythmically match Connor’s ascent into his violent outburst. In the design, this rhythm will be supported through a number of quick changing lighting states, or ‘jump cuts’.
As the play progresses, the scenes become gradually longer. In the forest the audience is finally given time to breathe with more space for more gentle storytelling. This more gentle rhythm allows the audience to be carried more gently alongside Connor and Lotte’s journey. A lighting state always sits in opposition to what you’ve just previously seen and experienced, and the new found softness of the rhythm of light in the space should sit very differently alongside the pace of Part One. As Connor and Lotte decide to travel deep into the forest, lighting will support a more natural sense of time passing from day, to dusk, to deep night.
In the rehearsal process, I am always in discussion with my team around how we can best tell the story. In this production, the sound designer and I are working closely together to ensure that the relationship between lighting and sound is instrumental in this. We are often in discussion around timing and the pace of fades and cuts, and always trying to find moments of unison.
What are the differences in how you’re lighting Part One versus Part Two?
In Part One, the play exists in a number of ‘real’ and tangible spaces that Connor occupies in his day-to-day life. The lighting in Part One will create these spaces through a more naturalistic use of light. While we are embracing a colourful, quick ‘pop-up book’ aesthetic for the opening scenes, montages and flashbacks, the lighting looks and behaves the way it does in the real world. The light will be toned in more natural tints and will reflect the way lighting looks in these real spaces.
In Part Two, the lighting will help shift the audience to a more imaginative and expansive space. While the forest is a more honest and real space in Connor’s emotional development, the lighting will embrace a kind of lyricism, becoming a more magical version of a forest. Like in fairy tales, our forest is an in-between place – a place to get lost and to be found again.
The lighting will help create this world by shifting from the quality of light used in Part One, to more dramatic and sculptural angles. Light should no longer connect with the logic of the real world, but create a world that transcends the everyday.
This production goes on tour around regional Victoria and Tasmania. What do you have to consider in your designs for the tour?
One of the challenges of the piece is creating a lighting design that needs to tour.
The lighting design needs to be one that can be recreated in a number of very different spaces, but still give audience the same experience. The technical team need to be able to install the show quite quickly, so as a designer, I’ve had to work closely alongside the production manager to ensure this can be achieved.
Is there a particular moment in the play that you’re especially excited about, regarding your design?
I’m always most excited about lighting the opening moments of a play. At the beginning of the play you make a pact with the audience about what you’re doing, and the first five minutes are so critical as they tell you how you’re going to tell them the story.
Published on 3 May 2019