Cloud nine is a very unique and interesting play, and I found it a bit of a challenge to analyze and build a lighting design for. Our group decided to focus on the sexual relationships of the characters and the expression of them despite the presence of rigid social constructs, and I feel that I have designed the lighting in such a way that it highlights and emphasizes the poignant aspects of this overlying theme. To begin, I drew a sketch of the opening scene and the way in which I would design the lighting for it. In other productions, the British flag was highlighted on a pole in the middle of the stage while the family was introduced around it. I felt that there was other ways to accomplish the same image and feeling achieved by this design. Assuming that there is a cyclorama, the British flag should be projected on the back wall with the middle of the stage being lit to illuminate the characters as they interact. This way, not only is the British flag pinpointed as a major aspect of the scene, but the focus is not drawn from the introduction of the characters. I believe this to be extremely important, as this play can be extremely confusing and complicated at times. As such, the introduction of the family and the other characters and the establishing of the rigid Victorian english social constructs must be performed and communicated with absolute clarity so that the audience can make as much sense of the actual plot as possible, without wondering about the characters they only have a vague notion of because they were too focused on observing the British flag. Next, I drew a sketch of the lighting for scene one. This lighting design would also be used during most of the play, whenever there is no special or particular lighting design being used. This design properly illuminates the main areas of the stage, as well as setting the scene. The lights are a little dim and coloured a light yellow-orange to set the scene in Africa, which is a very important aspect of the play. Perhaps the sexual deviance of the characters would have developed differently, or not at all, had they been in the ever more constraining English society in their home country. I also drew two sketches for the scene our group mainly wanted to focus on, act one scene two. The first sketch was for the first part of the scene, in order to highlight the intimacy between Mrs. Saunders and Clive. There are two yellow spots and a dim red spot on the area of the stage in which they interact in this scene, and everywhere else is lit a dim yellow. This is to put them in sharp relief, with a tinge of red around them. Red is a colour that many people associate with sexual interactions and seductive adultery. The red and sharp yellow gives the scene a more wicked sort of feeling and illustrates it as one of the most sexual-based relationships in Cloud Nine. The sketch I drew for the second half of act one scene two, the part in which the characters play a game of hide-and-seek, is simple yet effective. It is a darkened stage with a large pool of light in the middle, in which the main action takes place at any point in this part of the scene. There are also follow-spots on either side of the stage that illuminate the characters who enter and exit the stage during the scene. The main reason I would like to utilize the follow-spots is to better organize and highlight certain portions of this scene, to make it as easy as possible for the audience to follow what is going on so they can focus more on the underlying themes and relationships between the characters. This scene demonstrates Edward’s homosexual and feminine tendencies, and I do not want to take importance from that by having the audience confused. Another reason for my choice of lighting certain parts of the stage brightly and others in darkness is to provide a certain amount of contrast, to emphasize the contrast between what the characters want and the roles they are forced into by other family members and the society they live in. For example, keeping Edward in a bright circle of light that is in high contrast to the stage is illustrating his feeling trapped in the role of the manly son his parents expect of him, one he cannot soon escape just like he can never escape the cage of his follow-spot. The last lighting sequence I designed was for the majority of act two, during the scenes that take place in the park. I chose to project a mottled green light onto the cyclorama, with a bright light yellow light illuminating the stage as if it is daytime. This was intended to emit a happy, carefree feeling that is in contrast to the seriousness of the action onstage, similar to how the sound throughout the show is to be slightly out of tune and dissonant, to give the audience a slightly disturbing feeling and to set them a little off-kilter. I did not want to have overly dramatic lighting in the second act that would distract from the actions onstage, but I wanted to set up lighting that would be harmoniously off-putting like the rest of the production elements and the acting choices made by the artists and director. The importance of lighting often goes unacknowledged in the grand scheme of a piece of theatre, but it is essential to the success of the show. I did my utmost to ensure that this excellent piece would be properly expressed with very thought-out lighting choices and artistic design.
Churchill, Caryl. “Cloud Nine.” The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. Ed. W.B Worthen. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2007, 2011. 576-600. Print.