Robe Illuminates Sweeney Todd at Vanemuine

Robe luminaires - Sweeny Todd, Maris Savik

Recreating the dark and gruesome world of Sweeney Todd – the fictional Demon Barber of Fleet Street – at the Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu, Estonia, Lighting Designer, Margus Vaigur used a variety of Robe luminaires for the musical’s first time being staged in Estonia.

Trying to create the juxtaposition of a classic Victorian East London Docklands with the historical industrial backdrop, Margus shot with lighting and effects to recreate multiple locations. With the house Robe luminaires at his disposal including 20 Robe MMX Spots, 52 Robe LEDWash 1200s, 16 Robe LEDWash 600s and 12 Robe CitySkape Xtreme together with 12 Robe DL7S Profiles, – a recent addition to the venue’s lighting inventory – Margus lit the entire production with around 200 Robe moving lights and LEDs.

The production was directed by Director, Janel Jonas while the stark industrial set was created by Production Designer, Iir Hermelin. Vanemuine is known for breaking through cultural and traditional barriers and with a cast of around 40 onstage during the busy scenes, this presented more challenges for Margus who had to craft the lighting exactly to achieve the right ambience for each scene.

Iir commented that Margus “thinks dramaturgically” when it comes to applying light to a scene. That he is an architect of space, he likes the way the LD plays with beam angles and warm and cold colour temperatures, crafting lights “ just like a sculptor”.

Whilst strongly defined, including several ship and seafaring artefacts, the set was also elusively abstract. A universal space, that was also literal enough to represent specific locations, so the emphasis was on lighting different sections to complete the pictures and make visual suggestions to the audience.

Margus used the LEDWashes extensively, both for various general lighting and for effects. Using low-level shadowy lighting throughout to emphasize the sinister undercurrents of the drama, Margus placed the LEDWashes on the overhead rig, on the floor and the side booms. Lower level lights were also used to shoot up through the shredded metal floors of the upper set. Also using the DL7S Profiles for a subtle and sophisticated colour mixing and were the primary profiles supported by the MMX Spots. Positioned on the high bars, the DL7S’ shutters were used to isolate areas of the stage to highlight certain actions and build drama with their sharp focuses and precise edges. The challenge was to maintain the suspense and evil themes of the entire performance, without losing the actors in the abundance of backlighting and effects.

The venue first invested in Robe moving lights in 2013 as part of an upgrade to all Estonia’s state-run theatres, which has made a huge difference to the scope and quality of the shows staged there. Based at The Endla Theatre in Parnu, where he lights productions and co-ordinates the lighting department, Margus uses the Robe fixtures daily in his work.

He thinks Robe is an excellent brand, especially with the breadth of the ranges, which means “you can really choose and use the appropriate light for the job”.