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Chris Jaeger

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Two Plays and three Lighting Rigs – “No Man’s Land” and “Clown employment” – National Theatre Bucharest

February 3, 2017
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The winter season 2016/17 upon us at the National in Bucharest and time to pack my bag for an eight weeks stay in Bucharest. Warm clothes, fur hat and a red clown nose!

First up is a play based on the 2001 award winning movie “No Mans Land” by Danis Tanovic. Alexander Morfov has adapted this movie into a powerful stage play. Set at the time of the Bosnian War in the early 90’s, it’s a rollercoaster ride following the fence and trapped emotions of a Bosnian and two Serbian soldiers trapped in a trench in No Man’s Land during the Bosnian War. The Set Designer, Nikola Toromanov gave me a rich environment of realism to light, together with an emotional high energy script from Director Alexander Morfov.

The main action takes place over 1 day, so I had a pre-defined time line to follow. Small cut away location scenes and the imaginative use of a musical underscore helped make the transition smother from early morning to mid-day following on into early evening.

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For this production I used Lee 201, 202, and 117 to achieve the cool cold tones, and mixed in O/W (Open White or No Colour) to give me a warming tone when I required it. Adding an O/W and L117 3/4 front gobo break-up wash to further texture faces and set which helped with the low angle of the Front of House rig. Mixing in digital light source took a while to achieve the correct colour temperature, but proved very useful for those last minute hard to reach areas and highlights.

The timings of the lighting “q’s” are important in a play with a lot of tension, we wanted the audience to focus of spastic areas of action to follow along with the story, so a slow cross fade to highlight certain text or to follow the mood of the underscored music, would draw the audience attention strengthening the drama of the piece.

Special effects play an import part in the action and the use of smoke was critical to simulate the battle field mixed with fast pencil beam strobe effects from a few Paky Alpha Spot 800 QWO and two DTS Max. Mood, atmosphere and emotions of the play gave me a rich texture to work with on this drama.


“Clown employment” by Matei Vişniec and directed by Ion Caramitru was the second play I was working on, and this project was a complete contrast to No Man’s Land. Ion first came to me about a year ago saying that he had an idea for a production that would be a challenge to work with. The play is about three old clowns that answer the call for an audition. They soon realise that they all worked together many years ago and Act Two takes us back in time to the Circus Arena.

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This required the use of two performance space formats! Act One is in traditional, Italian Proscenium Format and Act Two is in Arena Format. This required a 30 to 40 minutes interval to change over the performance space.

 

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We needed two lighting rigs, Act One and Act Two, and not much time to re focus in the interval change! As you will see from the video clip, the seating blocks left and right move and have a lighting positions above them. We pre-focused these positions to give us a “General” Arena wash in 201 and O/W, while from the Auditorium Roof Positions with a mix of DTS Nick NRG 1201 and Clay Paky Aleda B-Eye K10 and Clay Paky Sharpies that gave me overhead colour and effects for Act Two. Act One was a more traditional proscenium lighting rig with the Front of House profiles split focused between Act One Stage and Act Two Arena.

The next challenge was “What do we do with an audience for 30 to 40 mins when we need them to vacate the theatre while we do the change?” The answer was simple, we give them another performance in the foyer! This was done with the help of the Bucharest Circus and a short 40 minutes performance from various Circus acts which also needed some illumination. Thankfully we used some Par 64’s and a few dimmer packs and were able to transform the foyer into a “Promenade” performing space. The audience would then need to have a new seat number when they returned to the Theatre for Act Two!  A challenging design of the end of 2016 with cleaver use of the Studio Hall at the National to fit into the already busy repertory season and use of space.

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