White Light has once again supplied the lighting equipment for the entire Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre season, which recently culminated in a revival of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical Evita.
Established in 1932, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is one of the largest theatres in London. Situated in the beautiful surroundings of a Royal Park, both its stage and auditorium are entirely uncovered and every year it hosts a season of bold and dynamic productions. This year was no exception, with productions of Our Town, Hansel and Gretel and A Midsummer Night’s Dream all achieving critical acclaim. The final show of the season was Evita which was directed by Jamie Lloyd, designed by Soutra Gilmour and lit by Oliver Award-winner Jon Clark.
Jon explains: “Soutra and Jamie chose to set Evita on a dilapidated seating bleacher, which to all intents and purposes looks as though it may have been sat in Regent’s Park for the past eighty years! We wanted to make a direct connection between the outdoor environment and the production; one being informed by the other. The suggestion of a sports stadium echoes the environment of dictatorial political rallies of the past, which has a resonance with themes of Peronism highlighted in the production.
He continues: “Jamie was keen that the production and lighting design harnessed the dynamism and energy of an outdoor music festival. We were particularly drawn to Beyonce’s iconic performance at Coachella last year. Contrasting with the music festival aesthetic is a starker, directional lighting language, more synonymous with contemporary European opera”.
To achieve his design, Jon approached the WL Hires team, who have looked after the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre all season.
The lighting in the show plays with the tension between open white tungsten Par Cans and colder LED and Arc sources. The set comprises of eight wide steps rising from the front of stage which is unapologetically rectangular in its form. The key lighting positions are informed by this and much of the functional light is delivered as uplight, travelling up the rake of steps.
Jon explains: “We utilised the new GLP Fusion Stick 10s as the cold uplight source, which provides an intense controllable light in a very discreet sized unit, which contrasts with a line of Par 64s in the same position. Upstage, nestled into the roof of the band structure are more Par 64s, arranged into clusters, which run the width of the set. This time the Pars contrast with two continuous runs of GLP Impression X-BAR 20s which describe the architectural form of the set and provide a colder, more dynamic look. Built into the risers between each step are 56 2-Cell Molefays, which act as blinders and are intended as rock n’ roll inspired abstraction of the classic Broadway 42nd Street aesthetic. They’re also used to evoke the feel of Evita arriving in a big city for the first time in the Buenos Aires number and create energy at other times. Under the set, the tungsten Molefays contrast with two banks of Martin Atomic LED Strobes and SGM X5 LED Strobes, which are used as intense and constant flood sources.
Jon continues: “From the outset, I wanted to create a much higher backlight position than is normally achievable at the Park. Adam Squires and Andy Beardmore at the Theatre did a fantastic job of sourcing two 14m high truss towers, which enabled us to create two key backlight positions upstage of the set, nestled amongst the trees. Each tower supports a solitary MAC Viper Wash DX, utilised at various moments as a pseudo backlight follow spot, to suggest the scale of a stadium and to heighten the dictatorial protagonists. These are all key to delivering the final image of Evita, extracted from all that has gone before”.
The show has now opened to critical acclaim and marks yet another successful season at Regent’s Park. It also marks a very busy summer for Jon who is currently working on the Broadway transfers of Pinter’s Betrayal (also directed by Jamie Lloyd) and The Inheritance, on which WL has supplied some of the equipment.
Jon concludes: “I’m really proud of what we achieved with Evita. I’d like to thank Head of Lighting Adam Squire, programmer Vic Brennan, Assistant LD Tamykha Patterson, Charlie Jones and the whole lighting team at Regent’s Park. As ever, the support from WL has been first class.