Andy Phillips, pioneering lighting designer and co-founder of White Light, passed away on September 17th.
Although best known for his lighting work at the Royal Court Theatre in the 1960s and 1970s, Phillips originally trained as an actor before becoming a prop maker, including making the Triffids for the film The Day Of The Triffids. He returned to theatre at the Aldwych, working alongside a crew who had all served together in World War II. He then worked as second electrician on tour with Paul Schofield's King Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company before returning to the Aldwych.
In 1965, Phillips joined the Royal Court Theatre, where he was given free reign by the theatre's directors to experiment. This led to the creation of the Court's “white light” style, which rejected the use of multiple colored filters in favor of just using correction filters to remove the orange cast of tungsten lamps, while retaining the natural skin tone of an actor's face. The Court's designers also dispensed with much of the artifice of theatre, removing masking to leave the lighting rig exposed, its structure designed to complete the overall visual picture of a show.
Phillips remained the Court's resident lighting designer until 1972, lighting over 80 consecutive productions, most of which were world premieres. After that, he continued to work regularly with many of his Royal Court collaborators, most notably director John Dexter. Their shows together included the two productions for which Phillips received Tony Award nominations — Equus in 1974 and M. Butterfly in 1989.
With two other Royal Court colleagues, Rory Dempster and John Simpson, Phillips founded lighting rental company White Light in 1971, named after the style of lighting for which they were renowned. Dempster passed away earlier this year.
Phillips was one of the first designers to use color scrollers on M. Butterfly. His last West End production was Auntie & Me in 2003.
Editor's Note: Coming in LD's December issue, Rob Halliday takes a closer and reflective look at Phillips' career.