Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its premiere at The Old Vic, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead returned to the venue in a new production directed by David Leveaux.
This production, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and David Haig as The Player, had a technical team led by The Old Vic’s Production Manager, Dominic Fraser.
For this run of Tom Stoppard’s existentialist tragi-comedy, Olivier Award-winning lighting designer Howard Harrison worked with Set Designer Anna Fleischle’s stark but highly-effective set to light an evocative performance space.
Howard explains: “The set design was partly in place when I joined the production, but I was able to see it early and had some input to create some lighting positions within the structure.
He continues: “The essence is that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are stuck in a sort of holding pattern, not knowing their place in the world. I created a design which worked around the massive flat walls and ceiling panels.”
Using GLP Impression X4 fixtures overhead and a combination of Vari*Lite VL1000 and VL 3500 wash fixtures in between the side walls, Howard created layers of cool white light, which accentuated the feeling of displacement.
Creating a contrast, warmer lighting was used for the performers. Howard explains: “This is a comedy, so we used Reich and Vogel 500w Beamlights as followspots to light the performers as they held their conversations. This made the actors stand out from the scenery and accentuated that they were lost in a cold space.”
Anna Fleischle’s design used both plain and printed drapes in place of traditional set, and these were used to separate the scenes of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and fragments from Hamlet performed upstage and downstage. One drape was used as a sail for the third act scene where Hamlet is on- board the ship sailing for England, and was lit from within.
Howard comments: “I lit the stage as one whole space. The drapes created the separation of the performance space.”
PRG XL Video’s Account Manager John Pauls worked with Howard Harrison to supply the fixtures he needed. Howard commented: “PRG were great. I had particular equipment that I wanted with specific lights, and the team were able to deliver the exact specification and within budget. As The Old Vic is a charity, we wanted to make sure what PRG delivered was cost-effective.”
Howard praised both lighting programmer Dan Haggarty and The Old Vic crew for their support on the production.
John Pauls sums up: “We were delighted to work with Howard to supply the lighting for this anniversary production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The set and lighting design complemented each other beautifully to create a unique looking performance space.”
Photos: Manuel Harlan.