The annual Michael Northen Bursary recognises imagination in design and creativity in lighting design, and once again the level of entry, both quantity and quality, was extremely high.
Jack Knowles, organiser of the judging for this year's awards and also one of last year's winning students, said: “Judging of entries is blind, and although the three winners stood out from the crowd, there was nevertheless a lot of discussion among the judges over the merits of other entries.”
However, there was one clear winner, Dan Hill from The Central School of Speech and Drama, whose design for Woyzeck at the Embassy Theatre showed how his research developed and influenced the final production. He clearly described ideas, concepts and influences and illustrated how they translated to the final outcome.
Dan has an incredibly strong and bold visual style – with very impressive images of exciting and well thought out concepts
The judges – ALD members David Howe, Anna Watson, Natasha Chivers, Phil Gladwell, Tony Simpson, Mark White, who was also representing ETC, and Jack, who is the student representative on the ALD executive – said: “Dan has an incredibly strong and bold visual style – with very impressive images of exciting and well thought out concepts that had been effectively achieved. He showed a good understanding of the piece and the production, and was able to work effectively with the other members of the creative team.”
The presentations took place at PLASA/09 on the ALD stand, where David Howe presented Dan with a cheque for £500 and a copy of Michael Northen's biography, Northen Lights.
The ALD (Association of Lighting Designers) not only organises the awards on behalf of the Michael Northen Bursary, but also awards £250 to one of two runners-up. Receiving the ALD cheque this year, from ALD member Mark Jonathan, was David Alcorta, also from The Central School for Speech and Drama, for The Runners at the Shunt Vaults.
Judges said David had shown a high level of understanding and sensitivity to the piece, as well as the surroundings in which it was performed (the venue is in a railway arch at London Bridge station). Showing a clear passion and determination, he realised that time constraints mean business and was able to work in the time frame available without compromising the design.
Every element of the design was well justified and thought out, and had a clear purpose
The second runner-up was Fridthjofur Thorsteinsson, also, coincidentally, from Central School, who received £250 from Fred Foster, CEO of ETC for his lighting for Godfather Death at the New Wimbledon Studio. The judges said: “Understanding the importance of lighting in this production, and taking into account the constraints and restrictions in designing the piece, Fridthjofur used the resources available to him to their utter limits, which resulted in strong choices being made. Every element of the design was well justified and thought out, and had a clear purpose.”
The Michael Northen Bursary is given for a project completed within the past academic year and, as a design bursary, the entries are judged purely on imaginative design and creativity in lighting. Michael set up the fund shortly before he died in 2001, and was delighted that his MBE, awarded that same year, was not just for his services to the theatre but also in recognition of his commitment to encouraging young people in the industry. The Fund is managed by The Mousetrap Foundation, an organisation committed to supporting young theatre practitioners.