PhD Research

I completed my PhD in 2011. My mixed-mode thesis was titled "Repositioning the Role of the Lighting Artist in Live Theatre Performance", in which I proposed a series of changes to the process of theatre lighting to give greater emphasis to creative decision-making in the moment of performance, rather than as a prior act of design.

I undertook my PhD at Middlesex University, and my Director of Studies was Professor Susan Melrose.


The role of the theatre lighting designer has traditionally been conceptualised using a model of ‘designer’ as someone who makes a prior imaginary act before the moment of performance, which is subsequently realised in performance through an essentially procedural, non-creative, process. In the present thesis I propose a partial reinvention of theatre lighting as a professional arts practice, emphasising the live operation or ‘performance’ of lighting, rather than its design prior to the performance event, and conflating the existing roles of the lighting designer and the lighting operator into what I term the lighting artist.

To make this shift, I establish a series of strategic interventions into the conventional practice of theatre lighting: to rehearse the lighting in the rehearsal room, starting from a randomised lighting palette; to defer certain design decisions until the moment of performance; to position the lighting artist in the performance space to establish certain kinds of relationship between lighting artist, stage activity, and spectators; and to design a lighting control interface conceptually structured in terms of affects and temporal dynamics, and that provides a playable, expressive instrument.

I test and evaluate these interventions through a custom lighting control interface, and through a devised theatre performance. I argue that the shift that I have made can bring about: closer working relationships between lighting artist, other personnel, and the performance event itself; an enhanced potential for lighting as an element of performance, particularly regarding the timing of lighting changes and the mutual responsiveness of lighting and other performance elements; a heightened sensitivity of the audience to the role of lighting in the performance, and to their own role in the theatre encounter. I argue that, whilst some aspects of what I propose have been done previously, my strategic, systematic shift of the role and process of the lighting artist away from that of the ‘designer’ and towards that of the ‘performer’, together with its description and evaluation in scholarly terms, is an original contribution to the field, with implications of urgent importance to performance scholarship and practice.

Find out more

You can read the written part of my thesis.

Read about the practice-research parts of my thesis - a performance titled Passages, and a bespoke lighting control interface, Theolux.

Alternatively, go directly to the appendix material that was part of my submission, including videos of Passages, performance documentation, and detailed technical descriptions of Theolux.

You can also read about the experience of using Theolux in my mixed-media online essay, The Operator Connects, which includes videos of Passages in performance.


I have presented at conferences, and published articles and book chapters based on my PhD research: