Leading UK lighting and visuals production and rental company HSL supplied lighting kit to a new and highly acclaimed version of the tense musical drama "Parade", staged at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, featuring an inventive lighting scheme designed by Aaron J. Dootson.
Aaron’s lighting was a crucial element in creating the emotion, raw anxiety and political and moral issues of this incisive piece of theatre by Jason Robert Brown, which dramatizes the 1913 trail of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank for the murder and rape of 13 year old employee, Mary Phagan in Atlanta, Georgia.
HSL first met Aaron through their work at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year where he had a production of Molly by company Squint. When this production took shape, and he needed support for the show, HSL's MD Simon Stuart was delighted to get involved.
"Aaron is a highly talented LD with a real passion for his work, so we connected on that level and were very keen to support this highly emotive and brilliantly produced project as well as the fantastic new performance space at Hope Mill".
Hope Mill Theatre is a new intimate flexible – 100 to 130 capacity - performance space in a charismatic former Victorian cotton mill in the historical industrial heartlands of Ancoats in Manchester which has been developed by young actors Joseph Houston and William Whelton to extend the vibrance and energy of the thriving Manchester fringe scene.
William also choreographed ‘Parade’, which was directed by James Baker and produced by Kate Lipson.
The Parade production team started with a completely bare space in the theatre, and one of the first things HSL and Aaron discussed was optimizing the theatre’s roof space, achieved with the installation of four Litec QU30 trusses spanning the structural beams and traversing the full length of the room.
The main moving lights were all from Robe's DL LED Series, which are specifically designed for theatrical and performance applications. 8 x DLS Profiles, 8 x DLF Fresnels and 2 x DLX Spots were selected for their small size, high output and low power consumption.
These gave Aaron massive amount of scope to produce numerous effects and recreate the myriad of locational references required – from courtroom to prison cell to the streets of Atlanta to the factory and a plethora of everyday life scenes.
These were joined by 26 x ETC Source Four PARs and Source Four Zooms, all fitted with scrollers and 12 x Philips SL PAR 150s and 9 x Prolights Eclipse ellipsoidals.
A box truss was also built at the back of the stage area and partly into the bar / café next door, to create a cyc and a backdrop, adding some serious depth and enabling the creation of additional locations through the arches leading on to stage.
Lighting this cyc were 6 x Philips SL 640 LED battens - three at the top and three along the bottom plus two eSTRIPS up-lighting the windows.
With a cast of 15 actors / singers and a live orchestra of 9, Aaron worked very hard to light the action coherently and consistently, and every light on the rig had to multi-task to replicate the scenes and atmospheres.
He wanted to bring the aura of different meteorology and other external ambient factors to the mix via lighting as well as reinforcing the locations, and underlining the messages of some of the highly personal and poignant songs.
Another challenge was programming the LED units to authentically replicate tungsten sources and capture the period feel. To this end, much of the time the DLFs were run at only 1 per cent as they were so bright!
All lighting was programmed by Aaron onto an ETC Ion console. He was assisted during the technical period by production LX Sam Wright.
Five days of fit-up and tech rehearsals were followed by four days of previews, a highly successful press night … and a three week run.
The set was designed by Victoria Rose Hinton and the company also created and installed a bespoke solution to stage this production at Hope Mill.
"HSL’s support was incredible" stated Aaron comments, "By getting involved everyone involved and all those who enjoyed watching the show could benefit from excellent production values”.
Simon (Stuart) adds that HSL will get behind other productions at the Hope Mill Theatre with the supply of products, infrastructure and experience. "It's great to see small independently-owned initiatives and venues like this springing up and energizing the Manchester fringe. It takes me back to the original inspiration that fired my interest in the performance and production industry and that's what it's all about - the dedication, commitment and the spirit to want to offer something truly 'alternative' ".
Aaron J. Dootson first started lighting productions at a small theatre in Bolton as a young teenager. He studied Technical Theatre and Lighting at Oldham College and Wimbledon College of Art, graduating in 2009. One of a number of rising star LDs on the UK theatre scene his other recent works have included "Origins", a physical theatre piece currently touring the UK after premiering at The Lowry in Manchester and "Parallel", a new work which started at the Harrogate Studio Theatre.
Photos: Anthony Robling