‘Gels’ available for stage lighting often came in these neat sample swatches. Some – not all – lighting designers of the early modern period would peer up at their naked lights, through these celluloid strips, to see what effect one variant of a gel, or another, might have when a face or a stage set was washed in that colour.
Dramatic lighting, influenced by romantic, late Victorian lighting tastes, lingered on for many years on all stages. Came a day when a young actor asked, ‘I’m playing me in this play… why do I have to smear all this goo on my face when I go on stage? I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt… I don’t grease up when I go for a drink with a mate…’ ‘Ahh, but you look ill in the lights if you go on without the goo.’ ‘O.K., then change the lights!’ And, slowly, that’s what happened. As modern directors and actors wished to reflect real life on stage, lighting fashion changed. Strong colours are saved for panto, now, and special effects.
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About my new book
I’ve spent 70 years as an actor, writer and director, and Are You Going to do That Little Jump? The Adventure Continues is stuffed full of backstage stories: about the sitcoms I was in – Keep It in the Family, Porridge, Rising Damp, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Reggie Perrin, and dozens more; about my forays into live theatre – from irksomerep, to risky Fringe, to the spine-tingling RSC and treacherous, seductive Broadway. And it’s right up to date with recent movies – Lost in London and Peterloo.