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Lights, camera, action: technology and theatre

Updated Monday, 7th December 2009

Tony Hill from the Royal Shakespeare Company explains the use of technology in the theatre.

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Tony Hill [workshop]

It doesn’t have to be set in a castle!  It doesn’t have to be like that at all.  We can set it somewhere else, but…

Tony Hill [interview]

I think youngsters today are much more familiar with the technology of theatre and of film and of movies than people were even twenty years ago, certainly they were thirty or forty years ago.  Also, the world theatre, sound, of television sound and equipment, of lighting, is changing at an enormous pace.  You can't go and do a workshop about theatre and do it with two dusty crowns, an old cloak and a couple of rostra, because what the kids will say, what New York kids will say is don’t dis me, don’t disrespect me.  So what we do is we take in a sound system which will make their fillings leave their mouths if we decide to turn it up, and we take in a lighting system which gives us an enormous amount of freedom, because what we want to do is to say to the kids what do you want, we’ll try and do it.  But they also know that we’ll tell them the truth.

So I had a girl this afternoon who said I think this scene takes place in the afternoon, and I said what time do you think it takes place, and she said about 3.35, and I said that’s really good, 3.35, now forget that it’s 3.35, what does that mean in terms of the light, and she thought for a moment and she said oh what I mean is that it’s still really bright but the sun’s not at the top of the sky so there’ll be a little bit of shadow.  Well that’s manna from heaven, because then you can say to the lighting designer, well you’ve heard her Robert, do something about it.  That we can do, and that’s fun, and that we can indulge the girl, and what I don’t want to do, I never want to have to do with them is to say yes well that was very interesting, now let’s move onto what we prepared before, instead what I want to be able to do whenever I can is to say we’ll try that and when I can't I say to the kids that’s a really neat idea, I wish I could do it.  And I want to have stuff there so I don’t have to say that to them.

Tony Hill [workshop]

Give me something military, give me the, a great coat, give me a great coat.  Day or night, come on, day or night?  Night, night…


The workshops are successful when students feel free to have a go, regardless of knowledge or training.  This may lead to fruitful discoveries.  In this context, the licence to experiment was taken for granted.

Tony Hill [workshop]

Yeah, try him with that, see how it, it may swamp him.  Yeah, I want to use that in a moment.


A bit large.

Tony Hill [workshop]

It’s a bit large.  This is not Bloomingdale’s, this is Bam!

Yeah, fog….


The choices made were surprising and refreshing, offering an enjoyable route into the more serious issues in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.



Tony Hill [workshop]

Okay, when you get a light on you, when you get a light on that paper you can start to read.

[Thunder and lightning/music]


To be or not to be, that is the question.  Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

[fog horn blasts]

or to take arms against a sea of trouble…







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