Show artwork for Lighting a Love Story
Michael Wahr and Claire van der Boom. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Lighting a Love Story

Lighting designer Matt Scott helps sculpt a visual language for Shakespeare in Love.

Lighting designer Matt Scott explains how all the design elements in Shakespeare in Love work together to create a love letter to theatre.

How would you describe the world of this play? How does lighting play into this?

The play is essentially a love letter to the world of theatre with a nod to both the order and the chaos that is universal in the history of the artform. Gabriela’s design is an evocative portrayal of this world, that could perhaps be rather simply summed up as 'all the world’s stage'. Simon has taken that world and utilised it like an intricate piece of clockwork with everything flowing along swiftly and effortlessly (but with an awful lot of effort really!). The lighting plays very much into this aspect, moving through the piece to draw focus to the action as required and help underline the flow of the story. As a celebration of the craft of the actor it is also important for light to help facilitate a strong empathy between the audience and the performers, not to mention accentuate the sumptuous costume design.

How does lighting help tell the story in Shakespeare in Love? Is there a particular moment that demonstrates this?

The story as previously mentioned, is fast-paced moving from location to location seamlessly. The lighting should take us through these locations and help sculpt a visual language for the piece as whole. There is no one moment that would really demonstrate this but each transition could be seen as this idea at work. There are times when the lighting also emphasises the romantic nature of the piece – the moments that mirror the plot of Romeo and Juliet essentially. The set captures this in the painted cloths that have a decidedly cosmic theme, literally the 'heavens above'. The lighting heightens these elements in such moments.

MTC_SHAKESPEARE_IN_LOVE_photo_Jeff_Busby_1498.jpg Michael Wahr and Claire van der Boom. Photo by Jeff Busby.

What kinds of lighting technologies are you using in your design? Any unusual fixtures?

The lighting rig comprises mostly of conventional fixtures. However, over the main part of the set that is revolve in a raked stage, due to the constraints of access all of the fixtures are automated. Also because of a lack of space in the grid I needed as small and versatile fixture as possible so I ended up with GLP Impression X4s which are small and bright LED wash instruments. A painted gauze that flies in and out constantly throughout is also lit with GLP Impression X4 Bar 20s which are thin LED strip-lights that can change beam size, colour and tilt up and down stage, an updated version of a very old theatre lighting idea – the border batten.

How do you collaborate with the other members of the creative team during rehearsal?

Having worked with both Simon and Gabriela a number of times so there is actually a lot that goes unsaid – you develop an understanding of the required aesthetic and just go with your instinct. I have been lucky enough to have an Associate on this project, Clare Springett, who has been diligently making notes about everything that happens in rehearsals which has been extremely useful for me. I have also been touching base quite a bit throughout the process with Jacob Battista, the Associate Set Designer who has also produced the documentation of the set design – plans, drawings and models etc – so that has been an important relationship too.


Shakespeare in Love plays at Arts Centre Melbourne until 17 August. Book now.

Published on 1 August 2019

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