White Light Gets Into the Spirit with A Christmas Carol

Written by Jack Thorne, the Old Vic’s A Christmas Carol is a brand-new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic. It tells the iconic story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve. Over the night, Scrooge is forced to confront his past and is given a final chance to see the error of his ways. The show opened last night to rave reviews and White Light provided the lighting equipment.

A Christmas Carol stars Rhys Ifans and features a lighting design by Hugh Vanstone. Hugh comments: “This is a thoughtful and innovative take on the Dickens classic rather than an expensive, flashy stage production. This is reflected in the staging, which places the action in a specially installed-environment rather than a conventional proscenium production. A giant planked walkway stretches from the back of the stalls all the way into the scene dock. Additionally, between the theatre’s traditional boxes, there is another intersecting walkway. These are used by the characters as they journey through scenes”.

In preparation for the show, Hugh met with director Matthew Warchus and designer Rob Howell to discuss the aesthetics of the production and how they would work together to create the space. Hugh explains: “There is virtually no scenery used in the show. There are four doorways which appear to define Scrooge’s office and bedroom but that’s more or less it”.

Despite the uncluttered stage, there was one element of the installation that would have a considerable influence on Hugh’s design. He comments: “Hovering about 3m above the walkway are 200 hanging lanterns. These give off a Dickensian feel and each contains a flickering candle. There is also an in-the round speaker system. Therefore the angles and positions I could utilise for lighting were extremely limited due to heavy air traffic!”.

Hugh approached WL to provide the equipment necessary to achieve his design. He comments: “I created a basic moving light rig to allow for isolation of areas and the odd special. The vast majority of the play takes place at night, or within Ghostly visions of Scrooge’s life; with only the final scene taking place in the daytime on Christmas morning. This led me toward reliable and silent arc sources for the night blues and crisp whites”.

To achieve this, Hugh drew on 12 x Philips VL1000 arcs. He continues: “I added a single MAC Viper Performance as I needed one bright, versatile light with animation effects capability in the middle of the acting area. Finally a basic cover of 12 x ETC Source Four Lustr 2s completed the hire package. These are used heavily throughout the show for cross-light and colourwashes”.

The show has now opened and will run until 20th January.

Hugh adds: “It’s been challenging exercise creating this fresh and entertaining take on a very well-known story. I hope my lighting goes some way toward creating an atmospheric environment which not many audience members will have experienced before”.

Photos courtesy of Manuel Harlan.

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