Friday, 23 November 2001

Paul Jackson - Lighting designer, Nov 23, 2001

Paul Jackson - Lighting designer
by Kate Herbert , Nov 23, 2001

Paul Jackson prefers to sit in the dark at the back of the theatre on opening nights of his shows. Ironically, he is a lighting designer.

You may not be conscious of the stage lighting in a show, particularly if a designer has a subtle touch.  You would, however, sit up like Jackie and complain if there were no lights.

Jackson describes lighting design as being "about building images and articulating space." He selects and emphasise certain things on stage over others, he says.

The designer is not the technical operator twiddling dials up in the bio-box (that little glassed in room up the back of the theatre.) He is a member of the creative team.

The job involves consultation with the director and set designer in order to create an atmosphere through choice of colour, angle of light, type of lamp plus a whole lot of pure inspiration.

For Jackson, it satisfies his "creative, conceptual need and the need to be technical and practical."

Hi most recent design is on stage until December at the Playbox in This Way Up.  Prior to that he designed City of Life for Oz Opera, Teorama for Chamber Made Opera, a double bill of Jack Hibberd and Barry Dickins at Playbox, Hit and Run at La Mama  and Shimmer  at Darebin.

He had a busy 2001 with seven lighting designs as well as production management for Not Yet It's Difficult (NYID)  and for Arena Theatre's tour to Taiwan.

In addition, he is completing a Masters in Australian Poetry and works as a set designer. Thank God for multi-skilling!

"I have my own look," says Jackson. " A series of motifs. A fascination with windows. Like Phil (designer, Phillip Lethlean OK ) I am fascinated with blue as a colour. Like Nathan, (designer, Nathan Thomson OK) I use open white light."

How visible the lighting is varies from show to show says Jackson. " If people come out saying, 'Wow! Green lighting!' then they didn't like the show."

He prefers the lighting to be integral to the production. "It is great if it has a dominant, foreground role but I am not interested in doing a light show".

"To me," he says, "Theatre is about more than just effects. Theatre is primarily a spatial art all about being physically present."

He finds it frustrating when "people who should know better" don't notice lights. "Reviewers often don't notice light although it has been better in recent years. They often don't notice sound or set design either."

Jackson says, "Although my strongest stuff is in intimate spaces, I am very interested in bigger spaces where the project is primarily visual."

The international companies and lighting designs he most admires include Hotel Pro Forma, Copenhagen and the Gate Theatre, Dublin.

Jackson had a Work Study Grant from the Australia Council in 2000 to study lighting design in Banff Canada with mentor, Harry Frehner.

He believes that, "ongoing creative relationships are vitally important." He has continuing collaborations with directors David Pledger (NYID), Daniel Schlusser and Peter Houghton.

They share common goals, a desire for exploration and a strong level of friendship. The work is as much about the people, a need for a sense of community, the constant exchange of ideas, he says.

2002 is already booking up. After a well-earned trip to New York and Canada in December, Jackson will return to design for Peter Houghton in an MTC show at the Fairfax Studio and will do two NYID shows during the year.

Go and see the light!

By Kate Herbert

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