How did you start off in theatre?
When I was very young, my dad used to take me to the local amdram shows. After that, I started discovering lighting at school.
What is the best piece of advice you have for students today?
Don’t seek work experience in the West End; there will be more for you to do and you’ll hone your skills to much greater effect on a mid-size tour or at a regional theatre.
What would you change about training in the UK?
Training in the UK should feel more like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Rather than being safe houses for the repetition of well-trodden material and traditional artistic choices, schools should be places where eccentric and off-the-wall ideas are given the space to succeed or fail.
What is the best part of your job?
Technical rehearsal. It’s where shows are made. In tech, students forget they’re training because they’re concentrating on the work.
And your least favourite?
Who are the practitioners you admire the most / who should students be looking up to?
I learned a great deal from Johanna Town when I used to associate for her. Declan Randall is a master of colour. Students should look up to Gecko, Theatre Ad Infinitum and Les Enfants Terribles – companies that consistently make exciting work and have built concrete reputations from collaborating.
What is the one skill that every successful theatre professional should have?
Initiative. To succeed, look beyond the minimum work required to get a show open.
What would you like producers to know about lighting?
We need time to document our shows. It’s rare not to tour or transfer, and while the set can be loaded into a truck and reassembled on a new stage, the lighting must be recreated every time. Please remember to budget for the time it takes us to document our work, in order to protect its future life on the road.
Matt Leventhall is head of production lighting at RADA. He was talking to John Byrne