The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) staged the London premiere of Scuttlers
in its city centre GBS Theatre, an intense drama about the struggles and power
politics of 19th century Manchester street gangs set against a steaming, grinding
industrial revolution backdrop bringing massive social change and great uncertainty.
The work was written by Rona Munro in response to the UK’s unsettling spate of urban
riots in 2011.
Directed by Hannah Eidinow, the production was lit by Declan Randall, a South African
theatre lighting specialist living in the UK, who made use of a number of different
Robe fixtures available at RADA.
Declan was asked to light this production by Matthew Leventhall, RADA’s head of
production lighting, working alongside a team of RADA students.
He was delighted to accept the challenge. The stark, raw industrial set – designed by
postgraduate theatre design (set & costume) student Christianna Mason – “was a real
gem’ for any lighting designer, he says. It provided a great starting point, offering
many interesting angles and rigging points for lights and using different levels and
numerous colours and textures, he re-created the edgy, dangerous and precarious
world of the Scuttlers.
For general ambience, the call was to replicate the smog and grime of factories and
mills shot through with impressions of gaslight and flames, the two most common
lightsources of the time. They also needed enough latitude to use theatrical devices
for some of the show’s more choreographed and stylised moments, as well as
presenting a few visual surprises.
“In short, I needed a very versatile rig’, stated Declan.
He used a combination of Robe fixtures – LEDWash 600s and 800s, DL4F Washes,
DL4S Profiles and CycFX 8s – which were distributed around the venue and above the
stage to give multiple options.
These mainly provided side and backlight as Declan has never been a fan of having
moving luminaires in front lighting positions.
Two of the CycFX units were positioned on the floor and used to uplight the theatre’s
brick wall backdrop. Two of the units were rigged overhead to be used as wash lights,
but also to create intense shafts of light for some of the more stylised moments. The
other two units were rigged vertically to cross light the areas on the bridge and under
Utilising the zoom, narrow bands of light could be created that just illuminated the
wall behind specific pieces of action, while at other times, the whole back wall could
be flooded with light similar to a cyc.
The LEDWash 600s were the key backlight source. Using just four units, Declan could
cover the entire stage, and again, the zoom gave scope for either narrowing down to
highlight single moments or opening up to restore the full scene.
Declan loves a good gobo and gobo wash, so with an excellent standard selection in
the DL4S Profiles, he was really happy. In addition to these, a couple of gobos were
customised to be show-specific.
“Gobos were used to add texture and depth to the scenes and to break up the mean
underground “world’ with dramatic slices of light and convey the sense of fragmented
light shooting through the bridges and steelwork.
The DL4F Washes s were used for side lighting. Declan likes these and particularly the
framing system, which gives a barn door functionality ensuring that light can be
directed to exactly where it was needed.
It meant that he could side light the actors with the control of being able to shutter it
out of the audience’s eyes.
Having colour control across all the units, they worked hard to reproduce the very
detailed subtleties in hues required to replicate that certain 19th-century aura.
“Being able to change focus, zoom, colour and gobo with relative ease, plus the beam
shaping control on some units, is a huge benefit to any designer,’ stated Declan. “You
can respond quickly to a change in direction or blocking as you have the tools right
there at your disposal.’
His main challenge in lighting this show was getting faithful replication of lighting from
the era and eliciting a period drama feel, especially using LED luminaires.
“We had to bend the technology to suit our requirements,’ he explained, which
required some complex colour and intensity control.
His favourite moment on any show is when a preset is active, and the working lights
are still on. As the workers are dimmed or killed, the whole space is magically
transformed into the new world that you have been crafting: “it gets me every time –
I love it’.
Declan thinks Robe currently has a good range of products available for theatrical
applications as long as they are correctly and carefully used. He would not hesitate to
use Robe fixtures on any show, primarily due to them being “reliable work-horses’.
He’s been using Robe products for many years, the first production being at the State
Theatre in Pretoria, South Africa over 12 years ago. Since then, he’s utilised them on
a plethora of shows from plays to dance productions, opera and musicals – back then
it was the then flagship ColorSpot and ColorWash 1200 series, one of the products
that helped put Robe on the map as a new moving light brand.
Since then, Declan has used Robe extensively on a range of shows. “It’s been great to
see how the range has increased, developed and improved over the years,’ he
Third-year student Teresa Nagel was Declan’s programmer and associate LD on
Scuttlers, while her fellow third-year student Daniel Smith, was the Production LX.
The DSM / show caller was Ana Carter.
Robe assists in supporting RADA’s lighting training and productions through equipment
supply. Access to the best possible technology is an integral part of the training
experience, for it to truly mirror the creative industries. This also offers Robe a front
row seat in watching the growth of the next generation of technical talent’.