Frankenstein and the British Museum

My thespian heart had a bit of a flutter last week. Thursday, the long awaited Thursday, I saw National Theatre’s production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein and Johnny Lee Miller as the monster. How can you possibly go wrong with that! To top it off, Danny Boyle directed it. It ticks off so many boxes the only thing that could have been better was to have seen it live and not in the movie theatre. Frankenstein is very multi-layered and with two such brilliant actors to make it come alive, it gave food for thought. There are themes of man playing God, scientists that go on mad quests without ever asking why they do what they do, and the quest for immortality through our achievements. One of the most fascinating themes is how the way we are treated by other people shape who we become. The monster’s take on events, is that humankind has taught him to be evil by not accepting him for who he is and only reacting to his outer appearance. They never try to look beyond that to find out who he is, even to find out if he is good or bad. And their evil treatment of him teaches him to be evil. There was a wonderful scene when Frankenstein tells his wife (they’ve just married) that he has created a human being and she tells him that if he wanted to create new life they could have married years ago and had children. That is the natural way to create new life. She really does speak with the voice of simplicity and reason.

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Poster for National Theatre’s broadcasts

I also attended the lighting convention LuxLive at Earl´s Court. I like conventions. They are a great way to learn about different companies and to network. At LuxLive there were loads of companies that I had never heard of and that made the convention an excellent opportunity to find out who they were. The other good thing about conventions is the seminars. I listened to quite a few of them, the most interesting being a discussion panel talking about the use of LED in retail, Paul Nutty´s talk about the lighting design for Superdry on Regent Street, and Phil Caton´s talk about lighting for Selfridges´ denim studio and Christian Louboutin at Harrods. I especially liked the talk by Caton since he was quite generous with the way his team tackle a project. Lighting design is a funny business that way – people don´t what to share how the do what they do. They have opinions but rarely share they work methods.

I am a sucker for good use of natural lighting. This weekend included a visit to the British Museum. I confess that I was not that interested in the contents of the museum, shame on me with such excellent collections, but the central gallery is amazing. If you go there, you must take time to walk around it, ignore that you will walk into people, and just look at that skylight. I could spend an entire day in there, watching the changes in light and how that changes the atmosphere of the room. The pattern of glass makes interesting shadows on the walls. When I was there it was sunny but the sun was also setting before I left so I got to see how the much warmer light of the setting sun coloured the white walls of the room.

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Central Gallery at the British Museum

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Shadow-play against the wall at the central gallery

The British museum also offered another light feature that was not a planned effect. A light play in one of the staircases created a green and yellow pattern on the floor. It looked really nice until you start to wonder how the effect is created. The culprit was a metal halide lamp that should have been changed. The greenish light from the old and defect lamp, in contrast with the warm coloured light from the working lamp created this lovely pattern on the floor. I loved that pattern but someone needs to change that lamp!

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Two-coloured light pattern in staircase at the British museum

Simple Pleasures

My flatmate recently let me borrow a book by Miranda Hart – Is it Just me? I’m sorry to say that I have already given up on it. It was too bubbly and as far as I can conclude after 2,5 chapters, she was too concern with what other people thought of her and not focused on what she liked. I mean, who cares if you don’t know who Kanye West is. It’s a lot better to assume a tell-me-more attitude than pretending that you know when you clearly don’t. I know the feeling of trying to fit in, though. I have spent too much time in my life trying to adapt to other people’s perception of me. And I still do it. It’s a work in progress letting it go.

But when we’re on that subject, the past weeks in London has reminded me of the little pleasures in life, pleasures I think I had forgotten about. I had forgotten how happy it can make you just to see the performance of a really talented actor, or a picture by a painter you admire, or hear a song you really like, or visiting a place that hold something for you. I was outside the National Theatre with my family last weekend and saw a guy wide-eyed and with a body language that said: this is f*ck amazing. I can’t believe I’m here! And I realized that that was exactly the way I looked a few weeks ago when I was there for the first time. It still puts a smile on my face to the see that theatre and to know that I am there. My London experience has been full of these little moments.

While my family and I were walking along the South Bank there was a light installation by the pier. Projected onto fir branches was a sleeping bear. You could hear him snoring too. You see him better in the picture than you saw him when there. I would love to get involved with more artistic lighting. There are so many cool things one can do with light. Alas, this Friday the bear was gone!

One thing that has struck me lately is the amount of luminaries that are based on the tungsten lamp. They relish in showing off the light source as it is suspended on its own, visible through glass or other material that still leaves the lamp clearly visible. The tungsten lamp has been taken off the market and it has been off the market for some time now. Tungsten has advantages and the way it’s been taken off the market, especially seen from a consumer point of view, was perhaps not the most well-thought through process. Fact remains, it’s gone and not likely to come back. It is time to move forward, to create luminaires that are suited for the new light sources and to start designing with their advantages in mind.

Lastly, some pictures from various Christmas lighting. They are everywhere now. I like the Regent Street lights. They depict the song The Twelve Days of Christmas.

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Sleeping bear outside the ITV studios

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Neal’s Yard

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…and a partridge in a pear tree…

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Outside the Royal Festival Hall

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Oxford Street

A Thespian at Heart

We had an office party this week to invite clients and colleagues to view the new offices. And since we work with light there was of course a light show. I have no idea where, the marketing people, found these guys but they were really cool. They played drums with lights installed in their clothing and instruments and danced around while the lights flashed. Music and lights go well together where one can enhance the other. The performers also acted out their parts, interacting with the audience.

One can find inspiration anywhere when working within a creative field. I think that if you want to work with writing, designing or any creative work, you must get out there and let yourself be influenced with what you see, hear, smell, touch and experience. Yesterday I was at Hampstead Heath. I have talked about natural light as inspiration before and I’ll say it again, it is an endless source for inspiration if you work with light. Yesterday I saw sunlight finding its way down through the leaves, an amazing glitter of light as raindrops hung on straws of grass and a lovely luster of light in the wind-disturbed ponds.

On my way back from Hampstead Heath I stopped at Keats House. I like poetry from the Romantic Era but have not had Keats as a favourite before. Unlike the Sherlock Holms museum, Keats House really triggered my imagination. After the damp and windy walk on the Heath, Keats House was a pretty, serene, quiet and welcoming haven where one could imagine sitting down to jot down a piece of poetry or just read some of Keats’. The simple guide that explained what the different rooms had been used for in Keats time, together with a few memorabilia made it well worth the visit.

This year the Royal National Theatre is celebrating 50 years on stage. As much as I love films, TV and books, there is something special about seeing a play live. The interaction between actors and audience and the atmosphere that creates is difficult to find elsewhere. Good theatre is of course based on good writing – that is the core of it all. Last night I watched a set of amazing actors celebrate the National Theatre with live performances and recorded plays that have been part of the repertoire during the years. Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Penelope Wilton, Zoë Wanamaker…Do I need to go on?! It was amazing!! The only thing that could have made it better would have been to actually have been at the National Theatre instead of seeing it on TV.

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Light and music performance

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Sunlight meets pond at Hampstead Heath

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Keats House

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Decorative glass window at Keats House