Lighting – Starting with the Text

Modern scripts rarely include precise instructions on how to ‘do the lighting’ for a particular show. Many scripts can be found which include not only very prescriptive stage directions, but also example set designs, lighting layout plans, and even lighting cue lists.

The following (fictional) script excerpts may help with lighting design ideas for particular scenes, without going into too much detail.

What kinds of pictures do these descriptions draw in your mind?


Act One: Scene One

The scene takes place in a drawing room of a London townhouse. The afternoon sunlight casts a hazy shadow across the comfortable seating and huge fireplace. Partially unpacked boxes and dust sheets over some furniture indicate a family in flux. Clive is sitting in one of the chairs, and although we can’t make out his face, he’s clearly not comfortable with the situation. The doorbell rings.


Scene Two

A dank cave at the edge of the settlement. The setting sun barely reaches the makeshift beds where the group huddle together for warmth. Night is drawing in. A sudden darkness as a shadowy form momentarily blocks the sunlight.


Scene Eight

The stage has opened up to reveal a moonlit courtyard outside the Embassy. The party is in full flow inside, but outside, apart from shadowy figures visible through the curtains, there’s little evidence of a party atmosphere. The gates open to admit the workers, carrying flaming torches.


Scene Two

A clearing in the forest. As noon approaches, all of the villagers file into position around the meteorite that created such a huge disturbance in the sleepy village. The air is thick with anticipation. Suddenly, there’s a low rumbling sound and the whole mood changes.


Act Three, Scene Two

A bus stop at midnight outside the nightclub. They all know the buses have stopped, but the bench in the bus shelter provides some rest on their travels, and some respite from the rain.


Act One, Scene Two

The same open plan office, but it’s now 5pm mid-November, and six months have passed. Most of her colleagues have now left, but Susan remains, focussed on her screen.