THE THRILLING ADVENTURES OF LOVELACE AND BABBAGE
I lit The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage at Rose Bruford College’s Rose Theatre as part of the National Youth Theatre. I’d consider it to be my best work, and it was underpinned by one basic design principle. The play concerns Ada Lovelace’s rebellion against the Victorian mother and society which oppress her, and her aim to become a mathematician and scientist - the world’s first computer programmer. The principle was that all scenes concerning Ada and the Victorian society she rebels against – such as the dialogues between her and her mother – were lit in a warm, sepia tone, reflective of the Victorian traditionalism which Ada feels confined by. In contrast to this, the scenes in which Ada is manoeuvring her way into the circles of scientist and mathematicians were lit by the cool, crisp LEE202; as well as providing the ideal clinical impression required for the laboratory scenes, this provided a sharp contrast between the two worlds which Ada co-exists within. As is usual with theatre in the round, there was minimal set, meaning it was largely lighting’s responsibility to create a sense of location. As part of this, I increasingly began to see the stage floor as a canvas, and became just as interested in the projections I was casting onto the floor as I was in the actors I was lighting. For the Victorian scenes, for example, four profiles with a breakup gobo in the sepia colour covered the stage gorgeously – I’m still not sure what it was to represent (either the scalloped edges of old book paper or representative of the rough and unstable society which Ada is rebelling against is probably what I was going for), but either way it fit perfectly with the general aesthetic and overtones. The rest of the lighting was built on top of this initial principle, and other moments included: a nightclub scene in which Par64s gelled in bold colours and in a step effect lit the dancefloor, whilst a crisp, meta-theatrical spotlight lit the club singer singing the macarena; a scene outside the nightclub lit predominantly by four LED Pars on one side of the stage in a bright blue moonlight, with a little low level fill and dark blue colour wash, which gave a beautiful sense of moonlight flooding the scene; and a single profile bladed square to represent a cupboard in which Ada is locked. The pictures below, however, are from a scene in which Ada has a nightmare, which was the most technically intricate element of the production. The scene is roughly made up of small sequences in which Ada is searching for an answer that’s out of her reach, whilst she is taunted by her fears of lizards and a Victorian marriage. I used the same gobos in different colours to provide the basis wash for the scene, exclusively in an eery and mystical palette of blues and purples (LEE508 was used excessively). Most creatively, though, Ada was the only character in this scene I lit with the area cover – all other characters were lit only by the gobo wash. The resulting impression was that Ada was the sole focus, but also that all other characters were both at once in and out of the scene – they existed, but only as a figment of Ada’s imagination. There were various lifts as Ada was searching for an answer (excuse the blurry photographs!) and the answer was always represented by the same golden light in a milky way gobo gently rotating. As Ada was lifted up into the golden specks, reaching towards the source of the light, her desperation to reach her ultimate goal was perfectly visually represented. As the narrative of the nightmare turned from unsettling visions to a lizard wedding, the lighting too turned to a creepy green palette. At the very end of the play, I was given license to play – a musical drag number allowed for lurid pinks and movers searching the stage in an RGB effect to provide the necessary camp overtones. As the drag Queen Elizabeth ended the play by turning on a dangerous machine, the RGB turned to a crisp white whilst the movement continued, now reflecting the whirring of the machine as it powered up. An SFX crash and snap blackout brought the play to a close, whilst the storyline itself was left very much on a cliff-hanger.
Production by the National Youth Theatre
Photgraphs crudely taken on my phone!