Theatre: Curtain Calls

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The Independent Culture
Hands on buzzers, no conferring: name three lighting designers. No? I'll have to hurry you... Oh, alright, two... One? Well, you're not alone. Lighting designers dedicate themselves to highlighting the work of others while remaining in the shadows themselves. Some would argue that if you notice the lighting then the designer has got it wrong. In fact, about the only time most people even think about them is when something goes wrong and a scene happens in darkness, or a follow-spot operator fails to point the light at the right person. Yet watching ENO's Boris Godunov, you couldn't fail to miss the powerful effect of Wolfgang Gobbel's lighting gleaming off the copper, gold and steel of Hildegard Bechtler's set. And who was it gave The Blue Room its cool, spare elegance? It was routinely ascribed to the director but my money's on Hugh Vanstone who, together with designer Mark Thompson, didn't just light scenes - they created the show's entire atmosphere. Theatre de Complicite's superb The Street of Crocodiles (above) also uses light almost as a character in its own right, thanks to the imagination of designer Paule Constable. She'd be horrified if you went only to watch her lighting, but if you can tear yourself away from the beauty of the images, just look at what she does with light.

Queens Theatre, London W1 (0171-494 5590) from 14 Jan