White Light Goes Wilde with The Picture of Dorian Gray

Based on the novel by Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a ground-breaking production – adapted and directed by multi award-winning Kip Williams, Artistic Director of the acclaimed Sydney Theatre Company – which tells this classic story through an explosive interplay of live performance and video. It recently opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket to critical acclaim and stars Sarah Snook who plays an astonishing 26 roles. It features a lighting design by Nick Schlieper who approached White Light (WL), a d&b solutions company, to provide the lighting equipment.






Whilst there have been several stage adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray over the years, it’s the first time that this version, which premiered four years ago at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Sydney, has played overseas. Nick, who also lit the original Australian production, explains: “Although I’ve always been familiar with the novel, I haven’t actually seen another stage adaptation, or even any of the film versions of Dorian Gray, so was able to enter our production with a fresh pair of eyes as it were. What I would say though, is that this production is highly unusual in that it’s a real amalgamation of forms. It’s neither a piece of theatre which incorporates some video, nor is it a film where you get to simultaneously see the “making of”. What we set out to do was find a true melding of the two forms, where each one serves to heighten and amplify one’s experience of the other. We shift the focus throughout the evening, but the two always exist in a symbiotic balance. Some have described it as ‘Cine-theatre’ – a term I wouldn’t entirely disagree with.”






Given the production is so unique, this naturally meant that Nick’s lighting design had to fulfil a very specific brief. He comments: “One of my roles is to make the camera images work for the screen, while simultaneously ensuring that the stage images can hold their own. We use up to five cameras at a time, two of these being steadicams, so we’re frequently shooting on the move and often around 360 degrees. The challenge is, of course, to find a quality of light that brings the film images into the aesthetic realms of the theatre, while still working for the cameras and looking good on screen. Then there’s the added difficulty of perfectly matching a live image to a pre-recorded one, to the point where the audience can believe that both exist within the same time and space. It’s all quite an intriguing puzzle!”.











Knowing what his lighting design needed to achieve, Nick contacted the Hire team at WL to supply him with his lighting fixtures. He explains: “In terms of moving lights (which do the vast majority of the work here), I originally opted for the MAC Encore CLD’s because they’re very quiet. That said, they were also incredibly useful for the video element, given their consistency of colour, especially in the “shades of grey” spectrum. The Encores do pretty well everything in this show! There are lots of one-off presets where a couple will do a very specific shot, which is usually to do with a particular camera angle, but then in the final scene, they also light the entire stage.






He adds: “Alongside this, there’s a small number of conventional Source Fours, mostly for the downstage area, a one colour backlight coverage and a handful of my favourite old Revolutions. These are for specific moments of downstage and direct contact with the audience, where I needed some tungsten for skin tones”.






Given the complicated nature of the production, this was obviously something Nick had to consider, alongside the Haymarket space, when creating his design. He states: “There’s no doubt that The Haymarket is an absolutely gorgeous theatre, but the challenge of squeezing this show into it has been immense. It’s not just four metres less proscenium width, a complete lack of wings and a precipitous rake, that were the problem. The lack of depth, specifically the lack of grid depth, was the single biggest issue and it took me ages to come up with a re-hang of the show that I even dared to seriously suggest to our PM Rich Blacksell! We actually developed a code, based on different colours of Rizla cigarette papers (!), to describe the clearances in the grid… But amazingly, we managed to squeeze it all in and are now delighted with how it all looks”.











The Picture of Dorian Gray has now opened to five-star reviews and will run until 11th May 2024. For more information, please visit: https://doriangrayplay.com/






If you are interested in hiring lighting for your own theatre production, or would like to discuss any of the products featured with one of our team, then please call 020 8254 4840 or email info@HireWL.com.  




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