Using a static rig of PARs, ETC Source Four ellipsoidals, and 5kW Fresnels, lighting designer Neil Austin has created an emotionally charged storm scene for the Donmar Warehouse production of King Lear, starring Derek Jacobi, directed by Michael Grandage, and seen at BAM in NYC as part of its 2011 tour. Every fixture in the rig was gelled with Roscolux 371 Theatre Booster 1 with the exception of a handful of front cross light in Lee 366 Cornflower, used in the storm scene at low level where it appears to be similar to the R371.
“The storm is key-lit through the gaps between the planks of wood of the walls and floors—again bright white R371—but suddenly the light is fractured, revealing the decay inherent in the design and symbolizing how Lear's mind is falling apart along with his once impenetrable kingdom,” explains Austin. “The oddity is that, in theory, you might expect that lighting from behind the set would make it feel as though Lear was inside during the storm scene and therefore protected from the elements, but the opposite is true, as the fractured nature of the light, along with its flickering, brings to mind lightning forks and undermines the apparent solidity of the environment.”
At the Donmar in London, the thrust stage meant a set with no side walls but a ceiling, while the BAM set was a semi-circular back wall with under-lit floor and no ceiling. “I beefed up the under-floor lighting for the storm scene, as there was no ceiling, and added 68 L&E battens with 75W 10° MR16 lamps and R371,” says Austin. The L&E battens were used in two lengths: 47x30 lamps and 21x10 lamps. Also under the floor were two Look Solutions Unique Hazers and six Martin Professional AF-1 Fans to draw out the heat. “I wasn't available for BAM or for any of the tour after the first venue, so Richard Howell worked as my associate, doing a fantastic job of recreating the original design in the variety of venues,” adds Austin.