Students Observe Billy Elliot Technical Rehearsals

13 December 2007,

“I want to become one of Australia’s leading lighting designers. That’s why I’ve always admired professional lighting designers as I believe there is just so much you can learn from them. It was an absolute pleasure to be given the opportunity to experience a professional lighting designer like Rick Fisher at work.” Jason Glenwright, currently studying lighting design at QUT in Brisbane was one of nine lighting design students from across Australia who, together with two from New Zealand were given the unique opportunity to sit in on two days of technical rehearsals with renowned lighting designer Rick Fisher and his lighting programmer, Vic Smerdon.

everyone_webRick (6th from the right in the white t-shirt) has been with Billy Elliot the Musical from the beginning and after a successful 2½-year season in London’s West End the show opened it’s Australian run in early December at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney; Melbourne will follow and then the production will move to New York.

The best part of this experience for Kate Burton from NZ, “was learning and watching the angles that Rick used to achieve his design. We saw approximately 20 minutes of the show being teched; there were about seven scenes covered and each was very different to the last, we were able to see from bright and colourful to dim and gloomy and big changes from strong front to subtle sidelight then to vivid backlight gobos. So with that in mind the transitions were dramatic as were the angle, colour and movement of the light, not to mention the highly dramatic changes of the set which of course was lit accordingly, be that subtly or with guts.”

During their time in the theatre the students were provided with communication be_webheadsets which allowed them to fully immerse themselves in the rehearsal process, experience the interaction between designer and programmer, ask questions and, when the cast were on break Rick and Vic conducted short question and answer sessions on the finer points of the show, working in the theatre and their respective careers.

Robert Anderson, a student from WAAPA in Perth found Vic’s use of one of the many production desk monitors as particularly interesting and useful, “an overstage camera feed gave her a bird’s eye view of the stage which meant she could see the beams of the lights she was focusing from more than one angle, which I thought was pretty cool.”

Aside from the technical aspects involved with lighting a large-scale production, as voiced by Robert, “Being able to see how a large professional show operates was an incredibly worthwhile experience – the sheer enormity of it all, the methods used to tackle the show, and how some of the same problems that we face can rear their heads, even at that level”; Kate found that “meeting other young designers who are overcoming similar hurdles as me and talking to them about where they are at and what they want to achieve in their work” was just as relevant.

“There is just so much to learn about lighting design. In fact, “You will never stop learning,” was some sage advice received from Rick Fisher. I completely agree and can relate to that quote as I believe that attitude towards the profession will forever keep me interested.” We hope it does too Jason, and we look forward to following the careers of all the aspiring young lighting designers who took part in this unique experience.

Thanks to Rick, Vic and the Billy Elliot cast and crew and the Capitol Theatre management who made this event possible for Selecon to arrange.