Q+A with Andy Hamer, Lighting Designer for ‘For Now, I am..’

  1. Screen Shot 2011-12-19 at 13.22.59How did you get involved with Marc Brew Company / For Now, I am..?

Marc and I have worked together previously on a number of projects, originally for the production of ‘Fusional Fragments’ which also involved the collaboration of Evelyn Glennie .  This work had a number of incarnations and was last shown at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London as part of the London Cultural Olympiad 2012. Since then there have been a few R&D projects  and so I was very pleased when Marc contacted me again to ask if I would like to collaborate on his new work ‘For Now, I am..’.

  1. How did Marc’s story / movement inspire you create the lighting?

By observing, listening and understanding what Marc had gone through and seeing where he is now as a person today and how he had translated this into his own unique dance language.

For Marc to have experienced all of the trauma he has and yet still come through it making work and work which is of great beauty is inspiring for anyone. Particularly if given the opportunity to work with him as a fellow artist and collaborate to hopefully realize this on stage.

  1. What is your process of getting from inspiration to the finished piece?

It started with initial emails Marc had sent me about his ideas and asked if I would be interested in collaborating with him once again.  This was followed up by telephone conversations, and as Marc was also busy working overseas some Skype calls too.  As I have worked with Marc on and off over a few years I was aware of his background which significantly helped in the understanding of the piece.

Marc sent me video footage of rehearsal , which was very helpful and over time we discussed the meaning of the movement and pacing of the work. We exchanged our ideas over email and phone calls as each of us developed them finding our way through what was appropriate and supportive to the concepts of the work.  The next big step forward was the week of technical development at The Tramway.  Planning of this week took a bit of time thinking through a look for the different sequences and turning those illustrative visions of a scene into a technical lighting plan I could email to the venue to rig in advance of starting our technical rehearsal time.

I included a few more lights than I needed to enable us to have a few more options possible to try out – it was more efficient to do it that way rather than start rehearsing and then realize I needed another light rigged – stop rehearsal to then rig it before being able to move on.  This gave me a pallet from which I could draw on to try out different looks or light from different directions. Building up a final composition that supported Marc and the concept of the piece.

At that point I did not know what form the video work produced by Jamie would take and so needed to think through a number of different ways to create a look in the lighting which would allow me to create the same look but not interfere with the video projections.  By the end of that week, a look was established and a more concise lighting plan could be created.  A few changes were then made between that point and the preview at Sadler’s wells (and adjusting things a great deal to the configuration of their stage and grid) .

As this was the first public viewing of the work it was a great trial of what really worked, as its very different looking at a piece with just a few of you in the room – that all know the background to the work, to being in a room with many fresh eyes.  We were then very fortunate enough to get some more technical time at The Tramway, where fine tuning could take place, video confirmed – which also had a great impact on my lighting, Musical score and choreography all set and so now the work can begin to live!

  1. How does your lighting  help tell the story of For Now, I am..?

Marc’s story and the events of his life that make up the person he is today I found a fascinating area to explore and translate into a visual form.  I have worked with disabled dancers in the past and have had my own fair share of hospitals, screenings, tests, operations etc.

Marc’s statement of Look at me – This is who I am (now at this point in time) is a culmination of many events and mental processing through real life changing events.  From speaking with Marc and other disabled performers and from personal experience, the completely different way one is treated as a medical case is very different to how one connects to the world as an artist.

For me, this medical element was of great significance. This starkness, the emotionally stripped processing which handles very emotional and life changing situations and conditions.  As a patient it can often feel that everything is exposed, and your just a body in a space. However at the same time a very specific part of your body could be under a very deep level of scrutiny and investigation.  That fine line of investigation and sharp focus from a medical state I was interested to translate into a scenographic one.

However as Marc has the elements of being a performer and choreographer and comes from a ballet background, and the wonderful nature of Marc himself, I  still wanted to keep a beauty to the aesthetic. Using some classic forms of stage lighting often associated with dance rigs, but tailored to the needs of the project.

The preset is a very bright white wash of light, the scene looks sterile with the large white fabric covering the stage as if its disinfected bleach cleaned space. As the piece begins I lose all lights, aware of what can be seen by just the video projection, light is slowly introduced in specific ways to focus in on Marc, but on the whole the stage is kept dark. The only overhead light then depict specific areas of focus.  To illuminate wider areas, just chin lights are used, so Marc can be beautifully modeled by the light  and the folds and shadows of the fabric become apparent (previously beached out in the light at the start). However looking at the stage as a whole, the area above Marc’s occupied level up to the rig is a black void.

The final image created is that of a crosshairs – as observed as if looking through the sight of a gun but also in the eye pieces of many medical instruments and used to be marked by light on the body by the old style photographic X ray machines. Where the patient was laid out on a cold table and the camera would hover overhead, cross hairs of light projected onto the area to be x-rayed. The vertical component of this is created by a light rigged from the back of the auditorium, this partly has a nod towards a follow spot.

In the presence of haze in the theatre, the line is not just a strip of light on stage but casts a line from the source of the light right over the heads of the audience connecting and directing their focus to a line that runs through the middle of Marc’s body. The haze allows us to see the journey of this light as if its coming from the point of view of the audience – it also represents the medical gaze looking a narrow view of a specific section of the body and not looking at the body as a whole.  It is only when Marc gets to his final state of composure that the horizontal lines of light come up completing the cross hairs at a state when marc can say This is who I am. Look at me.

  1. Why do you think people should come and see For Now, I am..?

It’s a very beautiful and moving piece on many levels. For anyone who follows Marc’s work I think this is a significant piece as it illustrates a very personal side that not many people would be brave enough to show.  Marc has also chosen his collaborators well, with some beautiful images created by  Jamie Wardrop in video and an emotional moving music by Claire McCue which has the wonderful quality of giving enough openness and space to give the choreography space to breath but at the same time completely supports it by enhancing its energy.  I feel it is a very significant work of the time and I hope it will be seen by a great number of people.

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