Based on the world renowned 1950 novel by Patricia Highsmith, Strangers On A Train is a spine-chilling tale that tells the story of a fateful encounter between two men in the dining carriage of a train crossing America.
Originally seen in the West End, the production is now being revived and is touring across the UK. Starring television favourites Christopher Harper, John Middleton and Hannah Tointon, it is adapted by Craig Warner and directed by Anthony Banks. As a leading supplier to touring productions, White Light is providing the lighting equipment.
Strangers On A Train sees the creative team from last year’s production of Gaslight reunite, which WL also supplied. The lighting designer for both is Howard Hudson, who says: “The set for Strangers On A Train is built on two levels and relies on a lot of projection to suggest the setting. The vast majority of my job was to light the small spaces revealed for each scene. This involved having to be quite precise in not interfering with the projected surfaces but lighting each scene in such a way as to make the projected image believable in context.”
As preparation, Howard attended rehearsals and began to formulate his design. When it came to choosing the exact fixtures, it was actually a demonstration at WL that helped influence his decision. He comments: “Having attended the WL demo of the Martin MAC Encore, I was very impressed with what this light could offer; particularly the warm version and its emulation of a tungsten source which was the feel we were after for this production. Similarly, its very low noise level was appealing with the units on the proscenium often so close to the audience. As you have such minimal positions overhead and the difficulty of access for maintenance, these were the perfect option for the show.”
The overhead rig consisted of five Warm Encores and three VL1100 AS, with the booms and proscenium being comprised of ETC Colour Source Profiles, four additional Encores and a number of conventional Source Fours Front of House.
Howard explains: “Touring a show which has to be set up in a day means it’s not possible to have too much focus time. What does need focussing, I try to keep in easy-to-access positions. As a result, the rig had to have that level of flexibility that you might not require for a show that was playing in just one venue. I wanted to ensure each position had as much flexibility as possible, hence the Colour Source and Encore route.”
He adds: “One of the biggest obstacles to overcome was finding the best shots into the very specific small spaces each scene was played in surrounded by video – which is a bit of a nightmare for a show that has to tour to a variety of different theatres where the same positions aren’t always guaranteed. So we were very aware that when we opened the tour in Brighton, where some shots and angles would have been possible and great to use, we had to be strict and not use these – knowing we wouldn’t be able to do so when we moved onto another venue.
“Another aspect is that the show is full of practicals, many of which are plugged up during the show itself due to the way the set works. This required a lot of careful planning and precision – much of which was done by Sonic Harrison who did a very efficient (and patient!) job as production electrician.”
The show is currently running at the Theatre Royal Brighton and will visit venues in Sheffield, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, York, Cambridge and many more.
Howard adds: “This is a really suspenseful show that will have audiences up and down the country on the edge of their seats as the drama unfolds. It’s been a great production to work on, reuniting with a great team, and I am grateful to WL for their support once again.”