First published on 25 Mar 2012. Updated on 22 May 2012.
Climate change comes to the stage in the Australian premier of Richard Bean’s stimulating black comedy The Heretic. One of Australia’s most loved actresses Noni Hazlehurst will join forces with director Matt Scholten and it's showing at The MTC Theatre, Sumner.
Interview with lighting designer, Lisa Mibus:
Lisa, tell us about the Heretic.
It's about a scientist working in the field of climate change who has been doing studies on rising sea levels, but then it's also got a very personal story unfolding alongside it. It's surprisingly full of comedy.
You've worked with director Matt Scholten extensively. How did you guys meet?
We met, like a lot of people seem to, at the VCA. We developed this relationship where we could talk really extensively about our projects, just sit down and have these really big conversations.
Do you develop a kind of artistic shorthand when working with the same people over a long period of time?
Yes, there's that, but the most important thing is the element of trust. I could say, "Matt, I've got this idea for this scene where this and this and this happen. What do you think?" And he might say, "OK, I can't really see how that's going to look, but I trust you." That trust is really important. It's easier to make leaps with someone you've worked with before.
Is it important for a designer and director to be in sync on everything, or is a little bit of resistance a good thing?
There needs to be an element of not immediately having the same reaction to everything. I think it's great when a director can question you about your ideas.
How would you characterise Matt's approach to directing?
He's a director that does like to work collaboratively. He does listen to what everyone has to say. Even if I have an idea about something that's not lighting, he will engage take it onboard.
Is this the first time that either of you have worked in Sumner Theatre?
Yes. The first time is always the most challenging. It's a massive stage, compared to us doing something at the Dog Theatre in Footscray or somewhere else. But, essentially, the way that we create will be the same.
Does it keep you grounded as a person to also have a part-time admin job?
There's something about treating your art as a job. I have a studio space that I go to. I finish at the office at lunchtime and I go to my studio and sit down and work, it might be till six or it might be ten. You have to feel like it's a real thing that you're doing, not a hobby.
Do you envisage a time when you could focus solely on design?
I guess that everyone wants to be at a point where they get to do creative work that they love all the time. Having said that, I don't find it a hindrance that I do work otherwise in the arts.
Someone said to me once, you can do five amazing shows in a year, or you can do five amazing shows and 20 OK shows. Maybe there's only so much you can throw yourself into? The work that you're completely involved and emotionally attached to is the work the work that really counts.
Do you see a lot of theatre?
I do, as much as I can. I love theatre. I do try to watch it as entertainment, but I do have a habit of watching the lights. For me I love watching a show that makes me feel something and feel something deeply.
What is it about light?
I live near the beach. I stand there just as the sun is going down, looking at the blues and the shadows. Light is a very powerful thing.
And lighting design?
It works both sides of the brain. There's the creative side, where you're coming up with your concepts and images and the way you want it to feel. Then there's the technical side, working out how you're going to achieve it, thinking about how many lamps you've got, where are the positions you can put them, what are your channel numbers. Then it's throwing them all back together.