Lighting Designer Amelia Lever-Davidson was a participant in MTC's Women in Theatre Program in 2016. This year, she's lighting three plays for the Company, beginning with Torch the Place.
How would you describe the lighting design you’re creating for Torch the Place? What is the world of this play?
The writer, Benjamin Law, has been very specific in setting Torch the Place in a house in suburban coastal Queensland during the summer months. This season and location lends itself to a particular quality of light, that very particular kind of bright, brilliant daylight seen in that part of the world. However, Mum exists in her home with all the curtains shut, unreachable, with the brilliant Queensland sunshine beating down upon the home. The lighting design will be trying to create the distinction between these two worlds, juxtaposing the oppressive and claustrophobic interior of Mum’s house against the sun-filled outside world.
What kinds of lights are you using in your design?
Torch the Place makes use of a large number of practical lights within the set. There is an assortment of lamps, chosen by the set designer and I, that adds to the chaos of the junk onstage, and helps bring a bit of visual aliveness to it. A number of appliances and pieces of furniture in the set need to transform in the fantasy sequences, and are fitted with LEDs to help them take on magical properties. Because these practicals are mounted to portable trucks on a revolve, they are battery powered and wirelessly controlled to allow them to operate without being plugged into anything.
In your opinion, what is Torch the Place about? How does your design support the play’s big ideas?
Torch the Place addresses ways in which we can deal with and address trauma. Mum suffers from a hording disorder as a result of a traumatic experience, and the play centres on her three children returning home to help 'fix' the problem. The play deals specifically with hoarding as a disorder, but also suggests ways in which we can best address mental illness, suggesting we address the issue with empathy, understanding and most of all, patience.
The greatest change the lighting needs to support is from the house, from its hording state to the final scene where the junk has been moved to the shed. The lighting will have previously been helping to create a claustrophobic interior, and once the junk has cleared the audience should finally be able to experience a sense of light and space.
Mum refers to her home as 'like a palace' when she first moved in, and the lighting in this scene should help the audience finally see it as she does.
How are you using lighting to differentiate the interior world from moments outside the house?
The lighting will make use of colour to help transform the world for the moments of fantasy in the play. The colour palette for the play isn’t overly saturated, and these fantastical moments will allow us to embrace a more whimsical style, especially through colour.
A number of appliances also take on a magical realism quality, lighting up in magical and unexpected ways.
Are they any particular aspects of the Fairfax Studio that impact your lighting design?
The most challenging aspect of lighting for the Fairfax is the shape of the stage, as the audience are almost in the round. I will try to ensure that the actors are appropriately lit so all audience members can see the performers, but still try to keep dynamics and shape within the design.
Is there a particular moment in the play that you’re especially excited about?
The fire! Live fire onstage is a really exciting element, and it will be my task to help sell the moment, while letting the live flame take centre stage.
Torch the Place is on the VCE playlist for Theatre Studies. Is there anything else about your lighting design that you’d like to share with students?
Aside from the challenge of the shape of the Fairfax stage, the other challenge I’m looking forward to is lighting the revolve. I am wanting to embrace the scene transitions as more sculptural moments, and really enjoy lighting the revolve and the junk trucks as a sculpture.
Torch the Place is on at Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio, from 8 February.
Published on 12 February 2020