International lighting designer Roland Greil – author of the book Showlicht (2019) and a true luminary in the field of lighting design – delivered a fascinating presentation at the Mosaïek Teatro on the 18th of February.

Ably supported by leading local designer Joshua Cutts (of The Voice South Africa, SA Idols and Eurovision 2019 fame), the packed audience at the Teatro was treated to illuminating presentations that delved into the philosophy behind best lighting design principles, as well as practical tips about how to further professional careers in the tough, competitive live events industry.  

Using the extended example of last summer’s Rammstein World Tour (which Greil and his team designed and executed), Greil shared his thoughts on the different lighting principles and techniques that go into creating “goosebump moments” for the audience.

Covering topics such as pitching to clients, the importance of CAD files and sound pre-programming workflows, Greil – interestingly – pressed the audience to consider the “dramaturgy” of lighting design, and of ensuring that the audience is provided with a “visual narrative” that is appropriate to the music or theatrical work being lit.

Speaking to ETECH magazine after the event, Greil said that this idea – of conceiving of his job as lighting designer as a storyteller, of sorts – was a natural evolution: “You grow into your own style. My background was always concert lighting, but in the course of my career I have worked in many different industries and on many different kinds of shows – and doing this gives you a completely open mind and a new point of view on your job. A concert is nothing else, in a sense – other than a story. And it’s our job to provide the visual narrative for that storyline. When you start out, of course, you want to build the biggest lighting rig in the world – make it flash and trash – but, over time, you realise this is only one part of the magic, and finding the right tools and effects for the job is a better strategy.”

For his part, Joshua Cutts decided to focus on sharing tips and words of encouragement gleaned from his own journey as a professional lighting designer: “It was great for Duncan [Riley, director of DWR] to invite me to be a part of today’s presentation. It was a huge honour, and I decided to focus on my experience in the lighting industry in the hope that some youngsters in the audience could relate to the stories and apply them to their own growing careers.”

The presentations concluded with an engaging question-and-answer session in which the audience – many of whom were students of lighting or young professionals beginning to make their way in the industry – put practical questions to the esteemed LDs on stage.

Reflecting on the value of training initiatives such as this, Greil commented: “If our presentations could spark a bit of motivation, spark the passion in the audience and inspire them with some ideas to take back to their own work, no matter how big or small the projects they are working on are – that’s the biggest reward you can get.”