Lighting designer Ian Watts, who worked in the West End and trained up and coming technicians, died December 25, aged 52.
Born in 1953 in Chichester, Watts trained as an actor at Manchester Polytechnic alongside Julie Walters and David Threlfall. However, he became more interested in the technical aspects of theatre and added to his experience by doing backstage work for David Scase’s company at the Library Theatre.
Watts eventually specialised in lighting and his work was prolific. Apart from the being an excellent lighting operator, he designed both in the UK and Europe from the New End in Hampstead to the London Palladium and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and he was a lighting consultant on a number of West End shows. His abilities in this field were considerable and covered styles ranging from musical comedy to serious drama. His initial involvement with the Pascal Theatre Company not only secured his position with them as their technical director but artistic director Julia Pascal dedicated its latest season of plays to Watts in recognition of his contribution to the success of her company.
He became a part of the technical staff of the Trent Park College of Education in the early seventies. When it merged with Middlesex Polytechnic in 1974 it then gained university status and Watts’ talents were recognised and he was appointed its chief technician and principal lighting designer.
For almost 30 years he had been responsible for the training of lighting and sound designers and operators, as well as instructing in stage production and technical management. There are many technicians currently working who owe their success to his dedication and fine instruction. In the early days of the BA in performance arts he also directed productions and for more than ten years produced the college’s prestigious summer musicals. He kept up his acting work performing with student companies and winning a Fringe First Award in Edinburgh for his portrayal of George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Watts also organised the highly successful degree reunion for alumni two years ago.
His last lighting design was for Shakespeare’s Passions at the Phoenix Theatre in Hampstead in July. Watts also ran the highly successful Bangs Before Bedtime Fireworks Display Company.
Watts was a warm, witty, deeply intelligent and well read man who had an infectious enthusiasm for the performing arts. He will be missed by his many friends and those in the entertainment industry who owed him so much. He is survived by Melanie his daughter from his first marriage.
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