As You Light It
Next up in our series, lighting designer Sam Payne talks about what brought him to lighting and the design of the show. Sam has just graduated from Christ's College with a degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic and is about to undertake a master's degree in the same.
When I first tried out lighting design at the end of my first year as a Cambridge undergraduate, I thought I'd hate it. Not only did it seem really hard to do well (student theatre can be very hit-and-miss), but it required a patience and attention to detail that I thought I would never possess. That first show, Hedda Gabler, went better than expected; it wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked. Every show since then has been an incremental improvement on the last, and As You Like It represents my final design of undergraduate life. In some ways I've come full circle; both shows feature a design influenced by nature and the encroaching forest, for instance. In other ways, however, this tour represents the end of a journey for me through Cambridge, and I couldn't ask for anything more fitting.
The preparation period for this year's CAST tour of As You Like It has gone by in a flash. It seems almost unbelievable that just four weeks ago Jamie (co-Lighting Designer) and I were sitting down to go through the script (line by line) and the director's notes to flesh out an initial design plan. Since that first conversation, supplemented by a lot of online coordination, we've succeeded in creating a lighting design that fits with Marthe's (Director) vision for the play, achieves everything we set out to do, and is capable of being implemented on a touring show that doesn't have the capacity to tour any lighting equipment of its own. The focus of our design has been emphasising Shakespeare’s contrast between the monochrome of the court and the vibrant colour of the Forest of Arden. Working with our wonderful production designers, Abigail and Eleanor, has been crucial to creating the monochrome, sombre court, filled with harsh and cold light, as well as the colourful and more changeable Forest of Arden.
Having never worked with a co-Lighting Designer before, I'd be the first to admit that I was very nervous coming onto this project. In reality, however, it's been an absolute dream working with Jamie. Every idea that one of us suggests is taken seriously, and the final design is a product that we are both very proud of. Whilst there are bits of both of us in the finished product, I would challenge you to separate out my influence from Jamie's; as a result of our collaboration it's something entirely different, and it's much stronger for that. This is one of the best lighting designs that I've worked on in Cambridge in the last few years, and I hope that all of our audiences are transported from their seats to the austere monochrome court, and the colourful, unfamiliar Forest of Arden. Watch out for those lights peeking out from the forest floor through the trees in particular!
Most importantly, of course, I'm extremely excited to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and love of lighting design in theatre with students throughout our tour in the workshops CAST provides; hopefully we'll be able to encourage some of them to try out lighting design themselves.