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EU in the dark over theatre lighting (your views, January 25)

The National Theatre's Angels in America is one of many high-profile shows that rely on tungsten halogen lamps. Photo: Helen Maybanks
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The decision makers are clearly ignorant of the principles of optics or they must be in bed with the LED manufacturers who are trying to promote their side of the market (Designers campaign to prevent lighting ban that threatens to leave theatres ‘going dark’). Sadly manufacturing happens in China, where faulty products are hardly ever returned for inspection or free-of-charge replacements.

Here are the facts of the situation:

1. Theatres are only a small consumer of electrical energy compared with the domestic market.

2. The optics of focus lanterns require a light source that tries to stimulate a point source (hence the grid pattern filament of Class A1 and Class T theatre spotlight lamps). LED elements of high power don’t exist because of the problem of dissipating the heat energy produced in the element. To increase LED lumen output one needs a bank of elements and so there have to be multiple point sources spread over a finite area. This destroys the optics of the lantern and so the focusing of gobos would be impossible. The design of an LED equivalent to tungsten has not been achieved.

3. LED street lights have not been a success: A 50W multiple element LED street light gives out less lumens than a SOX 35W (low pressure Sodium vapour gas discharge lamp of the 1940s), so where is the saving? LED lighting catalogues sometime shy from telling us the power consumption. Osram gives power consumption without wattage units in its tables.

4. LED technology is continually advancing and for theatre and councils to rush into LED lighting schemes is rash.

Will the knowledgeable EU directive move to make overhead projectors and old film projectors obsolete? So who is kidding who? With Brexit the UK can do what it likes and maybe the Continent will follow. Change will not affect America – nothing ever does. If we are seriously worried about energy savings, let the EU first make greedy retailers’ open door policies illegal. They are the craziest waste of energy.

Raymond J Walker
Chairman, Victorian Opera Northwest
Via email

Johanna Town, lighting designer: ‘I want to be a springboard to bring out the best in people’

Schools could go dark

As a drama teacher with one stage and three performance studios, this (moving to LED lighting) would be the end of theatre lighting in our school. There is no money due to government education cuts. I can imagine this will be the same for most schools. Sad times.

Phillippa O’Shea
Via thestage.co.uk

Mark Shenton on Josie Rourke

In Mark Shenton’s less than generous summary of Josie Rourke’s artistic direction of the Donmar Warehouse, he ventures the opinion that Lilian Baylis has a greater claim than Ms Rourke to be “the first woman director to run a major London theatre” (Rourke bows out a disappointment, January 18).

Miss Baylis would not have recognised the term “director”. In her day, the person responsible for the production on the stage was called a producer, most notably Tyrone Guthrie. Miss Baylis was a theatre manager, albeit a rather remarkable one.

Peter Morris
(Society of London Theatre staff 1989-2008)
Hove, BN3 3UB
Via email

In the ever excellent Mark Shenton’s article on the forthcoming departure of Josie Rourke from the Donmar Warehouse, he cites Ms Rourke as stating herself “proud of being the first woman director to run a major London theatre”, and he rightly mentions the redoubtable Lilian Baylis’ achievements of establishing the Old Vic and reopening the derelict Sadlers’ Wells.

However, he neglected to mention the equally redoubtable Gladys Cooper, who was the sole licencee and actor/manger of the Playhouse Theatre from 1927 to 1933. A unique achievement for a lady at that time .

This was prior to Ms Cooper’s departure for Broadway and Hollywood, where for the next 30 years, she appeared as an assortment of English dowagers, culminating in her Oscar-nominated performance as Mrs Higgins in the film of My Fair Lady in 1963.

Dame Gladys died in 1971. I feel she most certainly deserves a mention.

Chris Ishermann
Aged theatregoer and theatre worker

Quotes of the week

Dawn Walton. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Dawn Walton. Photo: Tristram Kenton

“This is a country that loves a good costume drama. If you have anybody of colour in a costume drama, people are really confused. And some people get really angry about it… If we’re telling British history and British stories, then we should tell all of Britain’s stories, and there’s a whole band of British stories that nobody knows about, and they’re all black.”
Director Dawn Walton (BBC)

“It doesn’t even cross people’s minds that I would consider it. And two: I’ve been very fortunate to always be busy. If I’m not doing a musical, I’m doing a concert, or on tour, or my voice-overs, or a radio show.”
Kerry Ellis on why it’s taken 17 years to land a non-singing role (Metro)

“To me, putting the word ‘character’ in front of the word ‘actor’ is a compliment because it means people are seeing the character rather than the actor, which at the end of the day is my ultimate goal.”
Actor JK Simmons (New York Times)

“‘Can’t you just begin the play with the first words rather than all your usual ‘stuff’?’ My favourite rehearsal note ever. RIP #JohnBarton”
Rupert Goold, Twitter

“She is the only person writing today who says something new both in content and form every time she puts pen to paper.”
Playwright Lucy Kirkwood on Caryl Churchill at the Writers’ Guild Awards in London

“I used to think the door to BAME working-class writers had been left ajar by the UK industry, hence my invitation to walk through it with Chewing Gum. I’m now realising it was more like the keyhole of a firmly bolted door that I painfully squeezed through. Open the fuckin’ door.”
Writer and actor Michaela Coel (Twitter)

“It’s not just about the actors you see in the window. The way I see it is, you’ve got a mannequin at Selfridges. Now, mannequins are not necessarily representative of what’s going on on the floor. It’s about changing the shop, as opposed to just putting more sexy mannequins in the window.”
Paapa Essiedu on diversity (Sunday Times)

“I’m still stunned I have a career at all. I hope this doesn’t sound haughty, but when it comes to theatre I will never sacrifice the integrity of the work. I will never cast a movie star to sell tickets, and I will never work with a director in London or New York who I don’t know and love.”
Playwright Annie Baker (Time Out)

What you said on Facebook

About Cirque du Soleil’s attempt to silence critic Lyn Gardner…

It shows a betrayal to the show from whoever decided to disinvite Gardner. Why would you exclude someone because you expect a bad review? If you can’t take criticism, you’re in the wrong game. Cirque isn’t for everyone and it’s more often than not less than groundbreaking.
Paul Allington-Hodgson

I avoided a certain show for 28 years because I knew I’d hate it. Then a friend went into it and I had to see it. I’ve now seen it 16 times. One can never predict reactions.
Sara Neill

About the designers’ campaign to prevent a lighting ban…

Tungsten lights are on full power the whole show, some of that power is dissipated through various circuits and heat sinks to dim the light. Think of it like this: the light is always on and you’re turning it off to various amounts.
Chris Ayles

About the death of John Barton, Royal Shakespeare Company co-founder

A legend and inspirational figure. He was one of the reasons I wanted to pursue acting.
Dale Savage

About Equity being labelled “divisive and offensive” after failing to categorise musical theatre members as actors…

People who appear in musical theatre often do more than act, they sing and dance too, hence the term ‘performers’.
Guy Jones

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