Tracking Lights for UK Revival of Angels in America at the National Theatre

by Michael Eddy
Denise Gough (Harper) and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Mr Lies) in Angels in America - Millennium Approaches. Photo by Helen Maybanks.
Denise Gough (Harper) and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Mr Lies) in Angels in America - Millennium Approaches. Photo by Helen Maybanks.

Tony Kushner’s multi-award-winning play, Angels in America has made a triumphant return to the National Theatre, marking 25 years since its UK debut. This new staging of the play is directed by Marianne Elliott, complemented by lighting design from Paule Constable and a set designed by Ian MacNeil, who takes advantage of the moving parts afforded by the National’s Lyttelton stage to blend reality and fantasy for the multifaceted story. This technology-laden production of the two-part epic features innovative ways of working with ETC’s Eos® family of lighting control desks.

Dubbed “a gay fantasia on national themes” by Kushner, Angels in America concerns a group of interconnected New Yorkers in the mid-1980s, when the world was in the grip of the AIDS crisis and Ronald Reagan was in the White House. To transport the audience from New York, to Salt Lake City, to the South Pole, and to heaven, the production features multiple revolutions and is heavily reliant on automation.

Denise Gough (Harper) and Russell Tovey (Joseph) in Angels in America - Perestroika. Photo by Helen Maybanks.To facilitate seamless transitions, the production uses LightStrike—an application designed by Dan Murfin, lighting control manager for the National. The app works alongside ETC’s Eos software to track automation systems with the lighting, making use of Streaming ACN and sharing that control with Eos. For significant parts of the production, LightStrike is in control of the pan and the tilt of moving lights in the rig, while Eos controls the color, the intensity, and the shutters. 

“There are four revolves in part one, and Eos working together with LightStrike means we are able to have the lights staying mapped to a specific area of the stage,” says Murfin. “The lights are able to track the revolves and remain in the same place as they move, an exciting and rare process. It’s a shared system so we can hand control over to LightStrike for a move and we take back control on Eos for a scene.”

Additionally, in the Lyttelton, all of the lighting and sound integration is via Eos and Open Sound Control (OSC). For part one of Angels in America, this system is used to animate an old-time telephone control desk. When a button on it is pressed, OSC triggers Eos and QLab, they respond by illuminating the LED on the button.

Audiences have understood and enjoyed the complexity of Angels in America technically. “There is a lot of technology in the show,” says Murfin. “It’s about supporting the story and making what can feel like a large space feel incredibly intimate for audiences.”

At the National, where several different productions can be seen in any one week, it is technically challenging to accommodate a production as sizeable as Angels in America. For this production alone, the lighting control team includes three programmers using two Eos Ti® control desks and a Gio®. “With everything we have going on at the National, time is often tight and we have to achieve a lot in a short space of time. Several factors are key to our success—we have the best control systems, our programmers are the best in the industry, and we’ve got the best equipment to make the process as easy as possible,” concludes Murfin.

Further information from ETC: etcconnect.com 

Andrew Garfield (Prior Walter) in Angels in America - Perestroika. Photo by Helen Maybanks.

 

Russell Tovey (Joseph Pitt) in Angels in America - Millennium Approaches. Photo by Helen Maybanks.