The creative team role call is impressive
UK - At the beginning of May, a two-year project came to be realised for inspirational Guildford School of Acting lighting tutor Michelle (Mig) Burgess when her design installation Blackout was revealed to the industry.
Harnessing the collective powers of light, sound and video in the hope of affecting genuine changes in an approach to mental health, Mig set about on her quest over two years ago.
Mig is open about living with Bipolar II disorder – a condition with which she was finally diagnosed in her late twenties. And for the past couple of years, she has been formulating a plan to create a design installation to portray, in a sensory way, the mental journey inside a Bipolar II patient’s head as they transition through a manic episode.
The result has been a highly provocative, moving installation, experienced alone for six minutes, and which, over the course of four days was seen by over 250 industry professionals, venue operators, young people and mental health experts.
The creative team role call is certainly impressive and made up of a number of recognised industry professionals all of whom are long-term friends of Mig’s. “I had to bide my time to ensure that if I went ahead, I could deliver the project to a high enough standard to do the installation justice” explains Mig.
Finn Ross is a university friend “who just happens to be a fabulous and talented, award-winning video designer’, smiles Mig. “And the first person I broached Blackout to was theatre director Simon Anderson who I have previously worked with and known for many years. And my husband, Paul Burgess of Sadlers Wells - well, it was imperative to have him with me on this journey. Finally, Zoe Milton is an audio version of me – so she had to be on the team as our sound designer.”
There has also been significant support from the industry. Whilst Robe have spearheaded this as key sponsor providing the seed money to make the concept a reality as well as key lighting fixtures including the new T1 and Cycbar 15 linear LED strips, several other companies have pulled together, providing rehearsal and pre-production spaces, a WYSISWYG suite for programming, and equipment to make Blackout happen.
Josef Valchar (CEO Robe) travelled from the Czech Republic specifically to support Mig and attend the launch event, and his feelings reflect the overall mood of the companies who have supported Blackout. "We have been delighted to work with Mig and her creative team to make her project a reality. It was fascinating to experience the final installation first-hand and all of us at Robe admire her bravery in addressing the challenges she faces with this condition in such an open and honest way.
“I hope very much that this valuable installation will go on to be seen by very many more people, and will provide invaluable insight, understanding, and discussion surrounding the issues of mental health - not just in our industry - but in a broader community as well."
Blackout also has a serious academic side to it as its audience is part of some important research being conducted by Dr Paul Hanna – senior lecturer and research director in clinical psychology at University of Surrey.
Mig has been overwhelmed by the reaction to Blackout. “I am truly humbled at the enthusiasm and support I have had from everyone that has been a part of making Blackout happen. This level of industry collaboration is hopefully an example and an inspiration to my students.”
Come and hear Mig talk more about the Blackout project at PLASA Focus, Leeds on Wednesday 15 May when she will be one of the panellists on a seminar addressing mental health issues at the Bury Theatre, Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, 12.15pm – 1.15pm.
(Jim Evans)

Latest Issue. . .