Give us a light there, ho!

9th October 2023 Progressive Players News
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Robbie Carruthers talks about his role as Lighting Designer for the Progressive Players’ current production of ‘Macbeth’.


When The Scottish Play was first performed in the 1600’s, it was mainly acted in natural light. Today we have electrickery and computers to help create and control the mood on stage and, most importantly, be able to repeat that feel on each performance.

I have always been interested in how stage lighting can change the look of a set and help to create and affect an atmosphere at the press of a button. I thought Macbeth would be an interesting piece of theatre to be involved with, not just because of the play, but because we have a new lighting desk and we have changed most of our stage lighting from tungsten to LED. It’s a bit like painting in oil all your life and suddenly you have to paint in acrylic paint. The end is the same but the journey is a different technique.

When Eddie, (the director) and I started to discuss his vision for Macbeth, he talked about having rain, (I mean real rain!), platforms six feet high, lighting inspired by the band Genesis, and dark, moody, atmospheric lighting filled with smoke. There was also his idea to bring Birnam Wood into the audience, which was mint; I just had to work out how! I said rain with water was not doable, but we could experiment with light on fog to create the look of rain. Six-foot high platforms were also difficult, but we settled on a maximum of three feet. Genesis-style lighting was a possibility. Dark moody atmospheric light bouncing off smoke I was really interested in.

For me as a lighting designer, lighting is a balance of light coming from different directions to give the light direction, In Macbeth, actors are given a three-dimensional form with the strong use of back and side lighting. Colour is used to infuse the audience with the idea of warmth and cold moods or a time of day. Red has been used when evil or murder is afoot. Blues for night and ambers and yellows for warmth. A lot of gobos (a gobo is a specially cut metal filter placed in front of a stage light to create a shape or shadow) have been used in our production to impact the visual look of the witches and enhance textures on the set. Even the rain is projected onto smoke via a couple of spinning gobos. Moving lights and spinning gobos to help the audience share in Macbeth’s hallucination caused by the witches.

The Little Theatre Gateshead has a superb lighting rig enabling lots of brilliant ideas. Lighting design can transform a good production into a memorable one. I hope I have helped to achieve that with our production of The Scottish Play. I am very proud to be part of it.


Robbie Carruthers.