Rob Halliday made one of his annual visits to Broadway this fall as the UK associate lighting designer and programmer for Jude Law’s Hamlet at the Broadhurst Theatre, with lighting by Neil Austin, sets and costumes—modern black clothes for the most part— by Christopher Oram, and sound by Adam Cork. When I met Rob for a quick lunch and visit to the theatre, he reminded me that he’d been in town last year at the same time, when he was working on the London transfer of Equus. Hamlet is a transfer as well, this time from the Donmar Warehouse series of four plays with celebrities seen last season at Wyndhams in the West End. “The set is a big castle with big sliding doors upstage, and great height,” explains Halliday. “That’s something we couldn’t do at the Donmar.” The height of the set allows for high slit windows on the sidewalls, with shafts of very white light dramatically hitting a dark stage. When the castle doors are open, they reveal a back wall of black brick: a wall that echoes the actual back wall of the Donmar Warehouse, and the exact same wall used in the same theatre for the previous production of Mary Stuart (but as Halliday explains, this being New York, the wall was removed then reinstalled for Hamlet). The rest of the set is new for New York, with different texture, finish, and reflection on the towering walls. “When the light skims along the walls, they look as if they are covered in ice,” says Halliday.
“In London, there was one lighting rig for all four shows. Here we had our own package,” notes Halliday, pointing out that some of the ETC Source Fours used for cross light in London were replaced by ETC Revolutions on Broadway. “You can shutter them to be very precise,” adds Halliday, who programmed the show on a Philips Strand Lighting 520 console.
“The color palette is very restrained, from open white to cool blue R371 and mid-blue R3220. The rig also includes Vari-Lite VL500 wash units hung right behind the proscenium. The rig was supplied by Lights Up & Cue Sound, run by Chris Beck. The lighting team included US associate LD Pamela Kupper and production electrician John Lawson.
“The castle doors close by hand, there is no automation on the set,” says Halliday. “Different locales are indicated by drapes and scrims, while the lighting through the windows indicates an inside scene.” The scenery is minimal: “Michael Grandade, the director, wanted just enough to tell the story,” Halliday notes. The lighting follows suit with a rather spare rig.
Last summer, this production was invited to the Danish castle of Elsinore, where Hamlet is set. “We did the show there for five days,” says Halliday. “The stage is outdoors and the sun went down behind the castle. We performed in a courtyard with a simple rig of Parcans, eight Martin Professional MAC TW1s and 10 MAC 700 wash luminaires.
In spite of the spare rig on Broadway, the lighting frames the production beautifully: “The lighting really works,” says Halliday, “because is it a team effort with the director and the actors really understanding what we are trying to do.”
Show Electrician: Tom Lawrey
Production Manager: Aurora Productions - Gene O'Donovan
Production Electrician for London & Denmark: Steve Reeve
Production Managers for London and Denmark: Patrick Moloney, Kate West