Astera Tubes enhance Richard II production
Monday, 31 July 2023
astera-richard-iiThe Tubes are used multiple times throughout the performance (photo: David Hou)
Canada - A new production of Richard II adapted by Canadian playwright and provocateur Brad Fraser is playing in the Tom Patterson Theatre as part of the 2023 Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario.
Conceived and directed by Jillian Keiley, the work is choreographed by Cameron Carver and lit by Leigh Ann Vardy who is utilising 12 x Astera Titan Tubes and four Helios Tubes as inventive lighting and visual props to assist the ambience and narrative flow.
Jillian Keiley wanted a minimalist stage setup, and as the creative team started to evolve the aesthetic – with the action set in a Studio 54-inspired disco steeped in the glamour, grit, and glitz of 1970s / 80s New York – it became essential to involve lighting elements that could take on the roles of both physical props … and metaphysical suggestion.
Leigh Ann, Jillian, and Stratford Festival’s technical director Greg Dougherty started looking at options for sourcing the right luminaires to meet this challenging brief, and it was Doug Ledingham, head LX for Stratford Festival’s Tom Patterson Theatre who first suggested looking at Astera’s wireless Tubes as a versatile and dynamic solution.
Chris Pegg from Astera’s Canadian distributor Lumenayre rocked up with some units and demonstrated some of the capabilities of the Tubes. “Basically, this was exactly what the creative team wanted,” stated Doug, “it was a ‘Holy Grail moment’.”
The Tubes are used multiple times throughout the performance but never lighting an actor, set or scenery piece in a conventional way, an aspect that also fitted the lateral approach and brutal directness of the piece.
One of Leigh Ann’s favourites is a bath house scene when the cast enter in a transition holding the Titan Tubes. On a downbeat of music, the lights snap on and sputter out, creating a dramatic shift in the mood. The cast then place the Titan Tubes in patterns on the stage, unlit, and as each character enters a small ‘room’ created with them, they glow in different colours to outline the action. “So, they can work in an architecture context as well as illuminative,” she notes.
In the final moment of the show, Richard is stabbed with a glowing pink Helios Tube, and as this happens, the colour drains out of the Tube as neon pink blood pours out of his wound.
A major general lighting challenge was keeping the show’s electric energy pumping, and this was also the most invigorating part of crafting the lighting.
“It is a visual and auditory feast,” she described, “So pulling the audience’s eye to the critical story beats was my obsession through the tech process.”
“The Astera Tubes were fundamental to achieving this,” Leigh Ann concluded, adding that she’s enjoyed creating a magical world that is “exciting, irreverent, and where the design elements have supported the storytelling throughout.”
From the Stratford Theatre’s standpoint, Doug is also very happy that they made the investment. Apart from being instrumental in Richard II, “they will be great stock items to have on hand and will definitely be used on future productions,” he stated.
The Stratford Festival is North America’s largest classical repertory theatre company, producing and presenting a dozen or more shows a year in four distinctive venues. Works including classics, contemporary dramas, and musicals, with special emphasis on the plays of William Shakespeare.

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