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Lighting expert makes London’s West End shine

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Bright spark: Bermudian lighting designer Ryan Day (Photograph provided)

A Bermudian lighting designer helped London’s West End shine this month with a production of the smash hit Les Misérables.

Ryan Day said even though the run at the Sondheim Theatre was cut short by a Covid-19 clampdown, he was privileged to work with some of the top names in their fields.

Mr Day said: “Being allowed to have 50 per cent capacity was a miracle, but the public have absolutely loved the show and had a standing ovation at the beginning, interval and end every single night.

“It was so emotional being in a theatre after almost ten months and hearing the murmurs of the pre-show, and then the rapturous applause when the first downbeat hit, the lights came on and the cast was on the stage – there is nowhere else where you can feel that sensation.”

Mr Day, 21, got his start in stage lighting as a child ten years ago through the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society’s annual Christmas pantomime.

He said he developed a love for the art and pursued it as a career and graduated in the summer from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Mr Day continued to build his experience in Bermuda, and lit shows for BMDS, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Bermuda and the In Motion School of Dance.

He said: “Working in theatre in Bermuda is a far cry from the West End.

“Being a lighting designer in Bermuda isn’t just designing the system, going to rehearsal room, then having a team around you to build and put the show together – all of those jobs are made into one.

“It is great in a way as you get to appreciate every role of the process but there is only so much one person can do.”

Mr Day said he became involved in the Les Misérables concert production through Olivier Award-winning lighting designer Paule Constable, who worked on numerous hit shows including the main West End production of the show.

He said: “Over the years we have kept in touch, but last year I was fortunate enough to shadow her for six weeks on four different shows as part of the placement for university.

“We started at The Royal Opera House when she lit Death in Venice, then The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the National Theatre – for which she won the 2020 Olivier Award for Best Lighting Design – and I spent a few days on Red Shoes at the Sadler’s Wells, and finally Les Misérables.

“During the second lockdown in London, I got a phone call from Paule asking if I would be interested in joining the team on the planned socially distanced concert version of Les Mis.”

Mr Day said the job was a paid internship that included everything from rigging the lights to working with the creative team on the lighting design for the show.

He added that because of the pandemic there were strict health measures and the cast and crew were tested every two days.

Mr Day said: “Sir Cameron Mackintosh owns both the Sondheim and Gielgud theatre, which were built next to each other, so they broke through the wall so we could use the dressing rooms, toilets and communal spaces in both theatres to maintain as much social distancing as possible.

“It was a strange feeling having dinner on the stage of a West End theatre.

“On a whole, I felt safer going into work than being anywhere else in London.”

The production, which featured an all-star cast, opened to a sold-out audience on December 5.

The show garnered a glowing response from the public, but the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in London forced the show to close after less than two weeks.

Mr Day said: “It is a massive shame because the audience was socially distanced and always felt safe in the theatre.

“It is crazy to walk out of a Covid-secure and socially distanced theatre into a heaving Soho street, packed with people.”

He added that he hoped to return to work next year, but that opportunities depended on the pandemic’s course, which has devastated the performing arts.

Mr Day said: “I have never felt more lucky and privileged to be a part of a show, regardless of scale, during these times.

“This time is horrible for everyone, but especially the freelancers who haven’t had work since the first lockdown. It made me step back and appreciate the opportunity given to me every day as I went into work.”

A production photograph from the West End concert production of Les Misérables. (Photograph by Johan Persson)

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Published December 29, 2020 at 3:19 pm (Updated December 29, 2020 at 3:18 pm)

Lighting expert makes London’s West End shine

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