The Handmaid’s Tale

The Moving Light Company, leading suppliers of automated lighting to the theatre industry, was delighted to be chosen by the English National Opera at the London Coliseum to supply the automated lighting required by the new production of The Handmaid’s Tale, which opened this week. This is the first time that moving lights have been used in a production by the English National Opera.

Adapted from the novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the America of the future, where the government has been overthrown by a religious dictatorship. The production was premiered in Copenhagen in 2000, where the creative team of director Phyllida Lloyd, designer Peter McKintosh and lighting designer Simon Mills made use of the Royal Danish Opera’s automated lighting system. Having decided that the use of moving lights – as movable, high-intensity, colour-changing discharge sources – was essential to the look of the production, talks began with the English National Opera staff about adding moving lights to the ENO’s permanent rep rig for the duration of the show’s seven performances.

The ENO’s Nick Moran, lighting manager for the production, and Kevin Sleep, head of lighting, in turn approached The Moving Light Company. Discussions led to the selection of the High End StudioColor as the units best fitting the show’s needs as well as meeting the ENO’s requirement that the chosen units be quiet. The StudioColor is well proven in this respect having been supplied by The Moving Light Company for seasons at the Royal Shakespeare Company, to plays such as The Tempest in Sheffield and at the Old Vic and to venues including the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, as well as to musicals such as Les Misérables, Oliver! and The Full Monty. Despite now being over six years old, the StudioColors continue to appeal to lighting designers working across a wide range of production styles because of their highly versatile colour mixing system which is able to make gentle tints as well as heavily saturated colours, their beamshaping system which allows PAR-like oval beams to be created and rotated, and their low operating noise – the units do not have fans. The StudioColors remain popular with crews because of their rugged reliability.

For The Handmaid’s Tale, lighting designer Simon Mills is using eleven StudioColor Ms, rigged overhead and used to provide top-, back- and side-light to scenes which take place around the stage and in different places on the show’s revolve. Control for the moving lights was from a second Strand 550i console networked to the Coliseum’s unique 500-series control system (designed to replicate the separate cue/channel keypads of their previous Galaxy controller, and commissioned and supported by fellow White Light Group member The Service Company). For show running the second console was removed and the entire rig was run from the Coliseum’s console.

Though The Handmaid’s Tale marks The Moving Light Company’s debut at the Coliseum, the company already has much experience with the use of automated lighting in the field of opera having supplied much of the automated lighting to the Royal Opera House after their extensive refurbishment. The Moving Light Company also continues to support the ROH’s moving light rig.

Further information about The Handmaid’s Tale and the rest of the work of the English National Opera at the Coliseum can be found at their website, Further information about The Moving Light Company can be found at or by contacting the company on 020 8254 4700.

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