that that had never been witnessed before. Controlled
through a specially developed Strand console,
its complexity matched that of the show’s scenic
choreography involving three, two-storey motorised
trucks, coordinated by stage managers with radios. The
video designs we see in many of today’s productions
also have their roots in the use at that time of vast banks
of projectors employing carousels and 35mm slides.
The theatrical lighting designer’s aim is to reveal the
human form within a given environment while also
portraying an atmosphere, primarily using shadow,
intensity, direction, colour and texture. Darkness
is particularly important because the action is seen
from a single point of view and from a long way away.
Lighting designers have to convey the human eyes
and the lips from 50m, which means that they have
to be the brightest things in an overall visual field.
In essence, the lighting designer has the same role as
a cinematographer. He or she not only has to take
account of visual acuity and supply emotional
information at the same time, but where a camera
operator can move between a one-shot and a two-shot
in dialogue, the lighting designer can only use light.
So, while the cast may be the brightest objects and the
focus of attention, what is darker around them provides
the audience with visual cues and atmosphere, and
other techniques such as backlighting or top-lighting
actors suggest how we should feel about them.
There can have been no better exponent of this
concept than the long-serving principal designer
at the Czech National Theatre, Josef Svoboda, who
invented the light curtain: a series of ultra-powerful,
very narrow-beam lights composed in long chains to
create blades of light of different lengths. Svoboda was
a lighting designer but because he thought of light in
three-dimensional and volumetric terms, he became
a scenographer; to his mind, the lighting and the scene
were one and the same thing, and indivisible.
Chicago-born Stanley McCandless, regarded as the
Josef Svoboda, the long-serving
principal director of the Czech
National Theatre, epitomises the
mastery of light, time and space
required in modern productions
‘Svoboda thought of light in three-
dimensional and volumetric terms;
to his mind the lighting and the scene
were one and the same thing’