Review – ‘Drama’ the journal of National Drama 


Stage Lighting: the technician’s guide

Skip Mort

Methuen Drama, 2011

The subtitle of this book classes it as ‘An on-the-job reference tool with DVD video resources.’  At a glance, it feels like the Encyclopaedia Britannica of stage lighting – everything you wanted to know, and probably quite a bit you didn’t.  Initially, the text looks very complicated – the kind of book a lighting geek would enjoy.  However, it is very skilfully organised in colour-coded sections, giving a range of information graded according to how much one already knows about a particular topic.  This allows the reader to become acquainted with basic information in the ‘Quick Start’ section before moving to the ‘More Information’ and then ‘Extras!’ sections.  The three strands run throughout the book, allowing students to match the content to their existing technical knowledge.  A DVD is included which used specially recorded shots to show the practical use of equipment and examples of different lighting techniques and effects.


Intended to be a reference book, it is so skilfully sectioned and organised that it would be an excellent resource for directed reading, with students pre-reading appropriate sections before practising with the actual equipment.  The text has excellent graphics with high quality diagrams and photographs.  It would have been tempting to use photographs just to provide visual variety from the printed text, but the author uses them as a very necessary extension and illustration of what is being discussed. 


Producing a book which purports to deal with the intricacies of stage lighting – a hugely practical and visual area of knowledge – is a tall order.  Traditionally this has been a field where the only real way of learning is through practical experience.  Anyone using this book in the context of teaching aspects of stage lighting will still need to ensure that suitable equipment and spaces are available so that the knowledge acquired can be actioned.  Given this hands-on need, a reasonable well-equipped theatre or drama studio space is a necessity as it would be frustrating to discover what you could do if you only had the right gear.


The main readership is expected to be post-16 FE students in preparation for post-18 HE specialist courses in stage lighting.  However, as the information and exercises are carefully graded, the book would be of value to lighting instruction in a range of settings including drama departments in schools, colleges and universities and specialist theatre schools.  If you want to know more about stage lighting, there’s no better book around – especially if you want to impart the information to students.


On-line price £18.74; see:


John Somers



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