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The Play of Light: Rethinking mood lighting in performance

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JournalStudies in Theatre and Performance
DateAccepted/In press - 17 Jun 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 4 Jul 2020
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)1-18
Early online date4/07/20
Original languageEnglish


Emerging from a context of expanded scenography, this article examines the role of light in creating and shaping atmospheres in performance. This capacity of light is significant in relation to the emerging body of research on the nature and composition of atmospheres in and beyond performance. Within theatre and performance studies, however, light’s atmospheric potential has rarely been considered in depth, and colloquially light is often described as ‘atmospheric’ as a catch-all term that precludes the complexity at stake in its generation of atmosphere, or its provocation of mood. This paper, then, offers a critical rehabilitation of the term ‘atmospheric light’, by examining the sensual as well as visual ways in which light generates shifting atmospheres in Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk (2014). In thinking through this particular example, this article employs scenographic thinking to address the complex multi-modal operation of atmospheric light in performance. In so doing, I aim to show the dramaturgical and ontological significance of atmospheres constructed by and through light in performance, and to point to the material and critical importance of scenographically constructed atmospheres in theatre practice.

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