2021, and here’s to 2022
30th December 2021
I’m Crofty, and I guess I do a lot of things with the company. As anyone who’s seen one of our shows will know, the actors can be seen doing a lot more than one might normally expect; operating cameras, moving scenery, being body-doubles and of course, performing multiple roles, acting. It’s a bit like that off stage as well; if you were to look in a programme you’d usually see my name under ‘Lighting Designer’ and it’s true, that’s one of my main roles and probably the one I enjoy the most, but I also work with Simon a lot on video and with most of our shows there’s a lot of integrating the various technological systems that needs to happen. That’s also something I do a lot of work on, making the lights, video and sound technology all communicate so things (hopefully) flow seamlessly in the show.
I often do a lot of the production management roles as well. Once we’ve got a show on the road I’ll be making sure it looks and sounds as good in each venue we visit as it possibly can. Because there’s always limited time in any venue before we open, a lot of that work needs doing in advance; studying plans, taking measurements, working out the positioning of all the various elements to give the audience the best possible sight-lines within the limitations of the projectors and lighting equipment we’re using. Once we arrive we only really get one shot at it, so it needs to be right first time. A huge part of that is getting the cast in as soon as possible to get used to the space and figure out what adjustments we need to make. That’s very much a process we do together, the technical team and the acting company; it’s hard, detailed work and it’s not something that a cast would normally be asked to do on other productions. Our process is very collaborative though, in a true sense. Our shows are complex things and they require a lot of input from everyone involved to work as they’re supposed to.
I’m happiest with my lighting hat on though. Lighting an ITD show is a unique challenge. I don’t know of anyone who makes work quite like we do so there’s no obvious style to imitate but there’s always a shed full of reference points, films, books, graphic novels and other performance works that are discussed in rehearsal. The lights for Heart of Darkness drew a lot on the psychedelic palettes of Afrofuturism and the saturated technicolor of Apocalypse Now. With Night of the Living Dead™️ – Remix there was obviously the stark black and white of the original film that shifts with the tension between super stylised high contrast images and the softly natural, almost grey tones of the scenes around the TV. But part of the fun with Living Dead was, at times, to have a colourful stage that contrasted with the film; we wanted to reference amongst other things, schlock horror and the bold primaries of the American flag.
Away from ITD I work a lot with dance, contemporary performance and live art and in terms of lighting there’s more cross over from that kind of work than from traditional theatre. We’re often making a series of images, seemingly abstract stage pictures where the performers bodies and the scenic elements are part of a larger whole that includes the video design as part of the scenography. There’s also often a conflict between the needs of the camera and the needs of the audiences naked eyes; what looks good on stage might not be work for the images we’re trying to film and vice versa. Finding that balance can be complicated. The designs also ask a huge amount of the actors, to create the images we do on stage we often light extremely tightly, so the marks the actors need to hit to ‘find their light’ can be tiny. In Living Dead there are moments where actors sprint across the stage, arriving in position as a tiny shaft of light snaps on hitting one half of their face, or maybe just their eyes. Their skill and discipline on stage means that I can do things with light that I simply couldn’t with a different group of performers; it’s a collaboration, we build the images with light, video, set and people.