Alex Musgrave is a lighting designer who has made a brilliant name for himself in the city, with a strong reputation for creativity and excellent attention to detail with his work. This interesting insight into him and his job role is not only a fascinating read, it also truly highlights the importance of those who work behind the scenes in creative roles. Here, in our second In The Spotlight feature, we find out all about Alex.
Hi Alex, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I am a freelance Lighting Designer and a Chargehand Electrician in London’s West End. I have a degree in Theatre Production from Bath Spa University. I’ve just recently moved to Waterlooville and I have a passion for music and photography, both of which I don’t get to do enough of!
How did you get into Lighting design?
I first got into lighting at secondary school when they needed someone to help with productions. There were very few people willing to do it, so It all sparked from that point. I was fascinated with how moving just one light around a space could sculpt anything that was put in it’s path. Lighting has the ability to, within seconds of an audience setting eyes on it, set the mood, time, location, style, pace and direction. This ability, as well as having the chance to create a world that will have such an effect on the production, is what excites me about lighting.
What's been your favourite show to work on and why?
That’s a difficult question as there are quite a few. One of my favourites recently has to be The Last Five Years. I was intrigued by the jumping narrative along with the relationship between the two characters. The emotional distance they both have to travel is incredibly intriguing and exciting for me. It made me explore how the lighting could be utilised to reflect their journey and portray where a character was emotionally at any specific time.
Another one of my favourites was Made in Dagenham - a musical with such a relevant topic for today’s social climate. I had good fun trying to get the Dagenham factory to look as realistic as possible, whilst managing to indulge in some of the more looser numbers! It was good fun.
Do you have someone in the industry you look up to or who inspires you?
Yes I have a few people that I look up to in the industry. Paule Constable (Angels in America, War Horse, Curious Incident of he Dog in the Night-Time), Bruno Poet (Miss Saigon, Frankenstein); Japhy Weideman (Nice Fish, Dear Evan Hansen) and Natasha Katz (The Glass Menagerie, Disney’s Aladdin and Sister Act) to name just a few.
Their work makes me think more deeply about the story as a whole, rather than just seeing it at face value. I think in essence this is what makes a good lighting design/designer - if they can make you think more deeply about the implications of the subject matter, enhance the performance without disturbing or distorting it in anyway - that makes great lighting. It needs to aid the story not just be a means to an end or a way of just seeing actors.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to split my time between playing musical instrument (guitar or drums which ever takes my fancy that day!) and photography. I find that both of these help me switch off from a busy week and allow me to mentally recharge my batteries.
If you had one wish, what would it be?
I guess a big wish for me is to get to a point in my career where I am lighting a big productions in London, Broadway or any where around the world for that matter! Getting to travel with my work would be the ultimate dream.
If you had to pick one thing, what would be your pet hate?
I’m going to be naughty and pick two! In general, littering. We only have one planet, we need to look after it! A more theatre specific one would be sweet packet rustling! It makes my blood boil! If I had my way theatres would sell sweets in plastic tubs.
What's your proudest achievement?
I would say my proudest achievement so far is getting to work in some of the most iconic theatres in the U.K. so early on into my career as a theatre practitioner. I’ve worked at the National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Aldwych Theatre; Savoy Theatre, Apollo Victoria, Minack Theatre to name just a few. Working in these theatres will undoubtedly help shape the rest my career.
What would you say to a young person interested in pursuing lighting design?
My advice would be to try and not get bogged down by paperwork, physical lights or other equipment you’re going to use. Spend more time learning to observe, dissecting and understanding light, how it plays and interacts with objects in an every day setting and what that emotionally means to you. For example, I will, if there is a full moon get up in the middle of the night, walk around my house and observe how moonlight interacts different objects.
Research, research and even more research. Make sure you know the source material back to front - be it the script, score or opera libretto. Then you can make informed decisions about the piece.
Gain an appreciation of the masters of art - they were the first lighting designers.
Read and listen - don’t be afraid to ask questions and respect your Followspot operators, they can make or break your design.
And finally, tell us about a project you have been working on, are working on, or have coming up.
I am about to go into the production period for this year’s pantomime Snow White at the Kings Theatre. I’m very excited about the project! I have also been working on a new website which I have just launched. Shameless plug here but check it out! It’s www.alex-musgrave.com.
Thanks for having me!
The Academy of Musical Theatre are launching a new initiative to get more boys involved in Musical Theatre training.
Sunday 3 December, 10.30am - 1pm
Admiral Lord Nelson School, Portsmouth
For boys aged between 8 and 16 years
It's completely free!
The ‘not just for girls’ campaign will see a boys only theatre workshop launched on Sunday 3rd December as a taster of what dance and singing lessons are like.
The session is completely free to all boys aged 8 to 16 years will take place from 10.30am – 1pm. The session will be led by the school’s co-director, Andrew Wright with visiting musical director, Adam Hoskins, who will serve as role models to demonstrate to any young males interested in musical theatre that it really isn’t just for girls. The workshop will include learning repertoire from some of the most iconic musicals of the last 60 years, including West Side Story, Newsies and Starlight Express.
The students will be coached in acting, dance and singing and will work toward a small performance at the end of the session. You don't have to be an existing student of the school to attend. It's free to any boys interested in musical theatre.
You can register for the classes online at: http://www.academymusicaltheatre.com/boys-theatre-workshop. Please share this article amongst anyone who may have an interest, it would be fantastic to get this class populated and show that Musical Theatre really is #notjustforgirls.
This is the brilliant moment when the talented cast of Petersfield Theatre Group's All Shook Up took to the streets in a flash mob promoting their production.
The sublime promotional piece took place in Rams Walk earlier this month and was captured in this video by Tony Neal. It features the cast of the piece performing an ad-hoc performance attracting the attention of many passers by.
All Shook Up is an American jukebox musical based around the magnificent hits of Elvis Presley which is being staged by the company next week at Petersfield Festival Hall. It runs from Wednesday 22nd November until Saturday 25th November nightly at 7:30pm, with a 2:30pm matinée on Saturday.
This Elvis-inspired musical features over twenty of the King's greatest hits. "In a small town in 1950s America, a guitar-playing, hip-swivelling stranger rides his motorbike into town. Is he 'The Devil in Disguise' or a 'Hound Dog' in 'Blue Suede Shoes'? The townsfolk are about to be 'All Shook Up' and could be headed for 'Heartbreak Hotel'! But for Natalie, the love-struck, tomboy mechanic, it really is 'Now or Never'..."
Tickets are currently on sale for the production and advanced booking is advised. Telephone 01730 268829, visit the Petersfield Tourism Office to purchase directly or book online. Link below.
Kings Theatre, Portsmouth
Reviewed by Amy Sackman
South Downe Musical Society (SDMS) this week celebrate their spectacular Diamond Jubilee with a compilation featuring sixty years of the SDMS Musicals at the Kings Theatre. Amy Sackman headed along to their opening night.
The first act of Diamond Show Stoppers, compered by Alan Jenkins, gave a selection of South Downe Musical society’s early shows from the 50's, 60's and early 70's. The show began with a '42nd Street' dance sequence, followed by the beautifully sung 'As Long as he Needs Me' from 'Oliver!' courtesy of Emily Rennicks, showing a tender side opposed to her typically bolshier on stage personas. Kayleigh Millen contrasted this wonderfully with a rousing rendition of 'Oom Pa Pa'.
The first large company number showcased the spectacular choral singing that South Downe Musical Society is known for - 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' begun beautifully by Marlene Hill and rose to a glittering crescendo at the end. It is during choral numbers with multiple harmony lines blended to perfection, that the company really shines and they do so on multiple occasions during Diamond Showstoppers.
Notable performances as act one continued included an energetic 'America' from 'West Side Story' with the female members of the company and a lovely 'One Hand, One Heart' - Emma Hall’s sparkling soprano a particular highlight. An impressive tap sequence in 'I Love a Piano' drew whoops from the crowd. Gethsemene also stood out as Steve Reading committed fully to the emotions in the song, hitting his notes flawlessly.
The second act visited South Downe Musical Society's successes written post 1970 and a pair of shows to come in 2018 - classic 'Carousel' and 'The Producers'.
Strong choral singing all the way through this act was a highlight; 'Façade' from 'Jekyll and Hyde' was thrilling and the 'Sweeney Todd' section, led by Jane Pegler and Danny Owen, was deliciously dark. A brief sojourn back into the world of 'Legally Blonde' featured talented Lauren Kempton as the incomparable Elle Woods. The pace of act two was good, with shorter pauses between songs and smoother transitions than the preceding act. Impressive lighting throughout really added to the overall professionalism of the show.
Diamond Showstoppers is running until Saturday 11th November, including a Saturday matinée, at The Kings Theatre, Portsmouth.
Reviewed by Matt Gibbins
Rosie's Vineyard, Elm Grove
Portsmouth once again plays host to local playwright Roger Goldsmith in another resounding success, 'Grace', showing at Rosie's Vineyard, a wonderful venue with a hidden gem of a performance space out back in their conservatory.
'Grace' tells the story of two women caught up in a murder trial involving both their children, and the unlikely bond that comes through as a result. Though the intimacy of the venue played to the scripts strengths, unfortunately it did little to help the sight lines. Since there was no raked seating or raised stage area, it often meant that scenes set with the characters seated meant that you lost a fair bit of acting visuals. Really though, considering the venue, it can't be helped and it's a small fault in an otherwise clever and diverse play.
Hazel Aspden, making her full length directorial debut, shows how easily the role comes to her. Having the actors set on stage throughout, in a sort of melancholic state added a great level of drama to the piece, giving an omnipresent tension to each scene. Megan Joan Green gave a brilliant performance as our title character, taking on practically half of the dialogue and action, having been thrown into the role with only a month's rehearsal. Her attack on the script was consistently strong, and she particularly delivered the sarcasm of the lines with great ease. Leigh Cunningham as new best friend Paula gives, once again, an admirable and heartbreaking performance, most of all in her latter scenes where her character dissolves into the mere shell of the woman she once was.
Phil Amor as Frank gave a much more pulled back and gentle approach to an otherwise very angry and loud husband, which added a level of sophistication to the role. Chris Mills and Katie Watson as Ray and Sarah, lovers torn apart by a brutal murder, played their roles with a great level of conviction and shone in their few scenes. Newcomer Alice Mulholland as Alice had wonderful authenticity as a young and sexually fired teenager, appropriately flirtatious and naughty, but with a quick wit to boot. Finally, hats off to Elisha Miller who stepped into the role of Oliver at the last minute. Without being told beforehand, it would be difficult to guess he had far less rehearsal than everyone else.
Unfortunately 'Grace' only had a limited sold out run of three nights, but here's hoping that this gem will be reprised at a later date.
Roger Goldsmith presents 'Mirrors' at the Wedgewood Rooms on November 22nd and 23rd, prior to the 'Damages' by Steve Thompson. Tickets available via the venue.
New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth is set to produce its first in-house Christmas production since its re-opening in 2015, with a new adaptation of the classic romantic fable - Beauty and the Beast.
This brand-new Christmas spectacular will run from 14 - 31 December and after the success of last year’s production will also include a dedicated relaxed performance.
Written and directed by the theatre’s new Chief Executive, Scott Ramsay, the adaptation will offer a new twist on the world-famous folk-tale. “We’re excited to be producing our own Christmas show for the first time,” comments Scott. “It’s a huge leap forward for this historic theatre that no less than three years ago didn’t even have a stage.”
With beautiful costumes and a host of colourful characters, the Christmas show will take audiences on an extraordinary adventure from the bustling streets of Portsmouth to the magical forests of Hampshire.
Silver and Gold performance tickets range from £19 to £29 with Preview show tickets from just £14.50. There will also be a range of Schools' Performances.
Click the link below or call the box office on 023 9264 9000 to book for this family Christmas spectacular.
Olivier Award Winning English Touring Opera To Perform Handel's 'Giulio Cesare' in Full at New Theatre Royal
English Touring Opera (ETO) is to present a new production of Handel’s masterpiece, Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar), uniquely divided in two parts.
This is the very first time that this opera is presented complete in Portsmouth, with over 4 hours of music split into two performances, each telling a distinct story over two consecutive nights, Friday 13th and Saturday 14th October at New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth.
The Olivier award winning company are among the leading producers of Handel operas in the UK, having produced fifteen Handel operas in the past fifteen years of James Conway’s leadership as ETO General Director. The company’s focus on Handel has played a big part in re-establishing Handel’s prominence in the operatic repertoire.
Giulio Cesare follows the story of Roman general Julius Caesar and his uneasy romance with Cleopatra.
In Part 1: The Death of Pompey we see the aftermath of the execution of Caesar’s rival, Pompey, as Caesar, Cleopatra and her brother, Tolomeo, all fight to the death for the throne.
Part 2: Cleopatra’s Needle shows Caesar and Cleopatra at their lowest ebb: will they regain the upper hand over Tolomeo? Can their relationship survive the incoming war?
Booking will be open independently for each night, allowing audiences to book for either part. Multibuy discounts are available for audiences wanting to experience Handel’s masterpiece in full.
Giulio Cesare is being staged at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th October, featuring a different distinct story on each night. Tickets are available now by calling the box office or alternatively by clicking the link below to book online.
Reviewed by Stuart Frank
Havant Arts and Spring Heritage Centre
Why do we go the theatre? What is it that we hope to get out of an experience where we part with our hard earned cash to sit for two or more hours and watch a group of actors perform in front of us? Do we go because we hope to learn something new that we didn't already know? Perhaps it's escapism to take us away from the bad day at work or the the dreaded weekly shop at Tesco?
I believe we go to the theatre because we want to be captivated by something. Something that's so compelling you can't bear to miss a single second. Something that draws you in so much that even when it makes you feel uncomfortable you revel in the disgust of what you've just seen unfold before your eyes. As an actor and as a director, I believe that if you can generate that distinct feeling within your audience then you have made magic happen. And I must say, HumDrum do exactly that and then some with their exquisite offering of 'Brimstone & Treacle' this week at The Spring, Havant.
Originally written as part of the BBC's 70s 'Play For Today' series by Dennis Potter, 'Brimstone And Treacle' was immediately pulled just before it was due to be broadcast for fear of a national outcry at the depiction of the harrowingly dark themes of it's story.
Centred around just four characters, we follow the events of the Bates family - Tom (James George), his wife Amy (Sarah Parnell) and their daughter Patti (Emma Van Kooperen). The tone of the production is already set so distinctively before Act One has even started with Patti lying on her sick bed in the centre of her parents' 1970's living room. We soon come to realise that a car crash from two years ago has caused severe physical damage to Patti that is likely to see her never fully recover, much like the obvious state of her parents' marriage in the aftermath of her paralysis.
Enter Martin Taylor (Michael Gondelle) - a smooth talking, charming wordsmith who seems to somehow know Patti from his past and will stop at nothing in order to convince Tom and Amy to let him in to their home and get close to Patti once more. With Tom so wallowed by his own personal demons and Amy so desperately blinded by clinging on to every last ounce of hope that life will one day grant her some happiness, Martin is able to play God in the Bates' household and take control of Patti in any way he desires.
Emma Van Kooperen gives the performance of a lifetime as the physically paralysed Patti Bates. Never before have I witnessed an actor with so few lines to make such an impact as part of the storytelling process. With every move, look, groan and spit she gives, she delivers with a conviction and honesty that is so real you can't quite believe that this is a dramatic performance and not a genuine persona. I will continue to hear those blood-curdling screams for a long time following this. She is equally matched by Michael Gondelle who delivers such a hellishly evil performance as Martin Taylor that we just keep willing either Tom or Amy to figure out what he's up to in order to stop him.
Sarah Parnell delivers an exquisite performance as Amy Bates, the put-upon wife and mother so desperately trying to grasp at any glimmer of hope - no matter how glaringly false it is. Ms Parnell achieves perfection on every line she delivers, always judging it just right to get the correct and, ultimately tricky, balance of comedy and drama on point.
James George is outstanding as Tom Bates, the stern and steely fronted husband, who only lets his guard down to reveal his true feelings and identity when he feels he's not being watched. Both Mr George and Ms Parnell worked so impeccably well together, you could be forgiven for believing they were actually a real-life married couple. The moment between Tom and Patti in the first quarter of Act One where he sings softly to Patti at her bedside is truly heartbreaking.
Director Sam Sampson obviously has a deep passion for this piece, as detailed within his Director's Notes, and that passion is clearly what has steered this production towards the excellence it achieves. From the diverse range of characterisations he has developed, through to the impeccable attention to detail of the 1970's setting, he has successfully ensured that his audiences are able to become exactly what a piece like this strives for its audience to be - the fourth wall of the living room, soaking up every comical, uncomfortable and tragically horrific moment that occurs within its presence.
An exceptional theatrical experience that will stay with me for a very long time to come. So it was definitely worth going to the theatre after all...
Brimstone and Treacle runs until Saturday 30th September with a matinée at 2:30pm and an evening performance at 7:30pm. Tickets available by calling 02392 472700 or online at:
The Southsea Shakespeare Actors are celebrating their seventieth birthday with two comic productions based on the works of Shakespeare.
Shakespeare: The Loose Canon and Harlequinade are being staged at the Hayling Island Station Theatre from Wednesday 8th November until 11th November nightly at 7:30pm.
The first performance, Shakespeare: The Loose Canon is a play in which two actors (Rob Bartlett and Aaron Holdaway) and a critic (Vincent Adams) attempt to account for every Shakespeare play in under an hour. It is directed by Paula Bartlett and David Pearson.
"Was William Shakespeare actually Christopher Marlowe disguised as Francis Bacon?", the show description reads. "When a boy dresses as a girl who’s pretending to be a boy, who really wears the trousers? Why are there so many shipwrecks? And who wrote The Four Noble King’s Gentlemen from Verona?"
"Shakespeare: The Loose Canon is a hilarious headlong attempt to deliver the whole canon of Shakespeare plays in 60 minutes or less. Synchronise your watches and fasten your seat belts...."
Following the fast-paced madness of this, the audience will be treated to a production of Terence Rattigan's masterpiece Harlequinade.
"Written in 1947, the same year that saw the founding of The Southsea Shakespeare Actors, this is a rarely seen comic gem, a wonderfully funny one-act farce about a classical theatre company just before their opening night on tour in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet."
"Their intrigues and dalliances come to light in a series of surprising revelations, with increasingly calamitous consequences, in this affectionate celebration of the lunatic art of putting on a play."
Harlequinade is directed by Steve Blackham and features Sarah Parnell and Andy Thomas, amongst other members of the company.
Tickets for this special anniversary show are on sale now from the Hayling Island Station Theatre box office. You can purchase them by calling 02392 466363 or by clicking the link below.
Following the success of It Started With a Touch, local writing talent Roger Goldsmith is to stage the premiere of another piece he has written at Rosie's Vineyard this October.
'Grace', staged from October 23rd to the 25th, is essentially a play about love and forgiveness. Grace and Paula were best friends at school. They do not meet until years later when a tragedy involving their respective families bring them together. What follows tests their friendship and brings into question the history of their time together at school.
Originally, the piece had a reading in Paris in 2015 by Moving Parts Theatre and an extract was staged at the Arts Studio by Sheer Height Theatre the same year. An extract from the play resulted in Goldsmith being offered a place at the Royal Court Writers' Group in 2016. This performance, nightly at Rosie's Vineyard, will be the first full staging of the play.
"I started writing the play about four years ago," Roger Goldsmith tells us. "It has gone through various drafts. And titles. Sometimes it takes a time to understand what your own play is about. You have to search for it, explore, dig deep, until you get there. I think, I hope, I have got there at least in terms of the original idea and what I thought I wanted to write."
"I am very much looking forward to seeing Megan Joan Green and Leigh Cunningham, who play Grace and Paula respectively, perform in what are both difficult and demanding roles. Katie Watson and Chris Mills, who were in my play It Started With A Touch last October appear in Grace together with Philip Amor, Stuart Frank and Alice Baker.
The play is to be directed by Hazel Aspden, a young up and coming director from the Southsea Shakespeare Actors."
Here at PortsmouthTheatre.com we love celebrating and seeing the wealth of writing, directing and acting talent from within our own city and we hope you will come and support this production alongside us.
Reservations for tickets can be made by emailing email@example.com, via Facebook Message directly or by telephoning 07951750165.