Lighting Swan Lake with Paule Constable

Lighting Swan Lake with Paule Constable


It’s extraordinary really taking on a
classic like Swan Lake I know I have quite a strong history with the company
and I’ve designed four or five shows for Matt and we have a really good
relationship a really good rapport, I think the three of us Matt, Lez and
myself. But Swan Lake’s different of course because it’s Swan Lake it’s that
show that everybody knows and loves and Matt was very keen to have fresh
eyes on the show but of course I don’t want to break something that people
adore and I didn’t know it and it was very important for me to start from, as a
new person to the show. That’s strange in itself because normally when you’re
making a new piece you go through a kind of period of developing ideas together.
So much of the identity of the show is already in it and there were things that
Matt wanted to reinvent but I didn’t even know what was reinvented and what
wasn’t because I didn’t know the show so I had to approach it as something
completely new completely fresh to me. I actually had to ignore its history it’s
the only thing I can do really you know. We work through photographs and models
and we we develop ideas but as soon as I was in the room with those dancers and I
spent a couple of weeks with them they’re incredible and you just want to
tell their story and share that story and that’s the kind of most important
thing to my work is telling the story and bringing alive what I’m seeing in
front of me. So actually the anxiety was all at the early stages and once I was
in rehearsal I was doing a new show. The lighting in Swan Lake I mean it’s a
slightly different show in many ways if you’ve seen things like The Red Shoes,
particularly I suppose The Red Shoes, the space moves and it’s very liquid but
quite often in a bigger space what the light does is focus us down so it might
say oh now the whole stage is what we’re looking at or we’re just looking at a
particular area but you’re always doing with that with lighting, sort of telling
the audience what to look at and the kind of the feeling of the space that
they’re in. But with Swan Lake the sort of boldness
that the whiteness of the space in the way you’re not carving images from
darkness, which is what you’re doing with with The Red Shoes, you’re kind of energizing
a space and filling it with light and it’s also, it’s interesting that
one of the main stories in Swan Lake is about the oppression of
the Prince and for me the idea of him living in a white space is very very
exposing so there’s no hiding there’s no you know there’s, also there’s no
underbelly to his life it’s all very controlled and very formal and the
lights when you first are introduced to the world of the palace it it has that
formality and that openness. There’s no dark corners really it’s all very
exposed quite brutal what the prince is looking for you feel and you know this
from the first images that you see if the Swan coming to him at night coming
to him and his dreams you know the Swan is a character of
darkness a character of interest of kind of intrigue of all the things he can’t
have so we go from this sort of a steer white space to the kind of rich sort of
moonlit, still light but light in a kind of I
hope a sort of beautiful benign sort of exciting invigorating way when he goes
eventually to the lake. I mean it’s also interesting when he goes to Soho you
know the Swank bar that’s very very dark it’s a nighttime scene but also suddenly
we’re in a much darker, seedier world and while that’s you know, darkness
is frightening but it also is very alluring.
So again lighting is kind of taking you through into dark spaces and then of
course you know the sort of absolute pinnacle of his insanity or his kind of
tip into madness is the asylum and this kind of incredible stark white image
which takes us into the world of his bedroom again but starker than ever but
now the Swans and his kind of you know the other life is coming into even that
light space. So lighting is really important in the same way that
Lez’s design is very important in terms of the mental state and the kind
of the sense of a journey in a descent for the Prince. I think I really love the
bedroom in the last act when the Swan world starts to come into the world of
the palace, I’m quite drawn to kind of brutal and beautiful images, it’s
something I really enjoy in my work and you know with Matt it’s rare for me
to have an opportunity to be quite so bold but that moment I started off by
making it quite dark as if the Lake had come to the palace and then
Matt and Lez was saying to me n actually it’s really not that it’s like they
physically come into the the palace world but they don’t change you know the
thing is we’re still in this kind of very austere stark space but they kind
of break into that and that’s more terrifying in a way like a nightmare is
more terrifying if you can see it in daylight in a way you know if the really
frightening things are just absolutely there and inescapable I love the kind of
bald flatness of that and the way that the swans come to appear from under the
bed and the fact that I’ve lit it quite hard so you can see everything
really clearly but you can see the corners of the room you can see
everything and it feels really quite unsettling yeah I love that moment. The
best way to make any piece of theatre or opera, dance or anything is collaboration
it’s all about communication we are any of us only as good as the quality of the
conversations were having and I think that’s true of us as individuals in our
conversation with the piece I think it’s between Matt and Lez and myself. Sound is
a slightly unusual one in this instance because it’s more a relationship with
the music than the sound design so it’s knowing the score and getting to know
that which was something new to me unlike when you make a piece of theatre
and the sound design might be kind of quite a creative landscape of sounds and
you know you’re creating rhythm using that here that’s all prescribed by
Tchaikovsky. I also think it’s interesting that those conversations
between Lez and Matt and myself because it’s really that’s the key
conversation within Swan Lake is choreographer, set and costume designer
and me. That’s where most of my ideas and kind of muscle comes from. I think the
challenge for me when I’m working with Matthew on these shows is that he
doesn’t in the same way that he’s throwing so many conventions to do with
dance away and sort of reinventing to tell stories he’s a storyteller
and I think that’s why we kind of get on really well is that I I don’t
particularly just by chance I don’t very often like dance, I’m much more kind of
a drama and Opera lighting designer so the thing about Matt is he wants so much of
the sort of idea of narrative of storytelling even if
people aren’t speaking words he wants them supported as if they were almost
but he wants the images to move as quickly as they do in dance. I sort of
described it sometimes it’s a bit like lighting Chekhov but a kind of 150
miles an hour it’s like every moment, nuance, detail needs to be able to be
picked out but you have to do that really quickly because people are moving, you know it’s so much faster than most plays or operas would move
it’s sort of bonkers because you’re trying to work at the detail of drama
and at the pace of dance and also it’s rare to have a moment where you sort of
step back and just let it be something that the audience can immerse themselves
in. The thing that’s different in Swan Lake which I hadn’t experienced before
with Matt is actually the second act of act of the first half is very much you
give the space over to the Swans and it’s sort of playing with the idea of
those, that formality, that the piece has from it’s sort of traditional roots so
in that section I do very little I let them carry it because you also don’t
want to come between the audience and then and in the same way that sort of
physically. They take the space over I want the audience to kind of just
absolutely be bowled over by that because they are incredible.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *