by Cat Strom.
Photo Credits: Troy Constable
FKA twigs’ visually intoxicating new show Magdalene is a bold reimagining of how music can be staged by a recording artist in the 21st century.
Internationally acclaimed songwriter, director and dancer, FKA twigs performed a one-night only show at Carriageworks for Vivid Sydney 2019.
An FKA twigs show redefines the intersection between fashion, art, music and performance and pushes the possibilities of artistic representation into exciting, previously unchartered, territory.
Lighting designer Tobias Rylander is also known for pushing creative boundaries and pioneering new design concepts particularly with the band 1975. His lighting is more than just illumination and colours, it’s also about creating shapes and contrasting images to tell a story.
Tobias has worked with FKA twigs for several years doing everything from headline tours and festivals to dance performance installations. He always starts his design by looking at her, and who she is at the moment.
“We consider what she wants to show and communicate,” he said. “She is such a multifaceted artist, it’s never just a concert, a dance performance or show. It’s always something more and all over the place.”
This time around FKA twigs was working with Creative Director Theo Adams and the two of them had a clear vision of what the show needed to be; key words were Classic Theatre and Transforming Space.
“With these keywords, a very limited timeframe and budget, we started with the dance and performance, designing the show together as a classic ballet and opera proscenium stage with drapery and side light,” explained Tobias.
“Knowing that this theatre show was going on tour this summer and would even play festivals, we needed to keep it very simple logistically. Therefore the layers of fabrics can scale and adapt to any side stage and work in a quick change over time.
“Stu Dingley did a terrific job programing an exciting light show with very few fixtures. It’s all about the dance and performance from Twigs. She is always at the centre here, and rightfully so, framed by a classic theatre show.”
The stage design is highly theatrical, utilising lots of material and backdrops which hide the big reveal; the band and dancers in a three-tier scaffolding structure with an arrangement of powerful lighting fixtures. Around half-way through the show, the fabric releases on solenoids.
Stu Dingley operated the lighting, supplied by Resolution X, which included 15 Claypaky Scenius Unico (substituting Robe BMFL), a Claypaky Scenius Profile with Follow Me, 53 GLP impression X4 Bars (substituting Chroma-Q Colour Force IIs), 22 JDC1 and two Claypaky Sharpy Wash. Added to that were two Cryo Fog CO2 low fog machines, 50 MagicFX kabuki droppers and two MA Lighting grandMA2 full size.
The structure’s lighting package comprised of GLP JDC-1s and impression X4 Bar 20s. It is a big contrast from the theatrical beginning with its side and top key light, as the structure lighting is all backlight with the light sources visible.
“We had a mixture of JDC1s on the sides and the scaffolding structure,” explained Stu. “The sides offered more key light lighting and the occasional hits from the xenon part to accent the music.
“The structure units are for big industrial, rock and roll looks towards the end of the show. The impression X4 Bar 20s are predominately for the fabric lighting but also backlighting the band and dancers.”
Overhead, the Claypaky Scenius Unicos were very precisely focused for the choreography movements whilst the side spots were used predominately with framing shutters to shoot through the fabric legs. Stu notes that the two Sharpy wash units are excellent small key lights.
“We needed some light downstage of the curtain for a handful of moments and they are the perfect unit for this,” he added. “As for the one Scenius Profile, originally we used a Robe MegaPointe with the Robe follow spot system, but it was the Scenius and Follow Me system in Australia.
“It’s a superb concept enabling you to ensure the artist is always nicely lit. We run them around 10% most of the time to supplement the side key lighting. We also match the colours of the show. The console takes full control except for position and zoom which we give to the operator.”
It’s a very smoky show, especially after the fabric is dropped and the show moves into the more industrial sections. The opening of the show features a lot of low fog to help set a dark ominous atmosphere for when the audience arrives into the venue.
Stu programmed the show on an MA2 full-size with 90% of the show on timecode. There are occasional parts where Twigs leads the band and he has some manual cues. There is also a lot of live accents too complicated and sporadic to code so he uses audio triggers from some of the bands SPDX pads they hit.
“It was an excellent show, Carriageworks is an excellent venue and it’s always great coming back to Australia to do shows and work with ResX as they are always superb,” remarked Stu.
Stu was blissfully unaware of the furor that followed the concert when social media was flooded by complaints about the ridiculously low stage at Carriageworks and with no screens, people simply couldn’t see the act.
It was a similar story the year before when St Vincent played.
Bay 25’s large columns obscured the view with people putting their phones up not to record, but just to see via their screens. Quite a few frustrated patrons simply left the concert.
Set & Lighting Design: Tobias Rylander
Lighting Director & Programmer: Stu Dingley
Production Manager: Joel Eriksson
Associate Director: Jordan Hunt
Musical Director: CY AN
Additional Score: Koreless
Movement Director: Theo TJ Lowe
Stage Manager: Drew Dawes
Front of House Sound: Johannes Berglund
Monitor: James Corbin
Vocal Coach: Nadine Marshall