The White Heat of Revolution: an examination of the effects of the coming of the incandescent lamp to the theatre

This is the (edited ) text of a speech given as part of the UNESCO International Year of Light 2015 celebrations, organised jointly by the Association of Theatre Technicians, The Society for Light and Lighting and The Association of Lighting Designers. It was given by the author at the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End on 24th November 2015.

International Year of Light Blog

It’s an enormous privilege talking about my favourite subject to such a group of experts, especially on this hallowed ground, the stage of the Savoy Theatre in London’s Strand – the very first public theatre in Britain to be lit by means of the incandescent electric lamp. This was a real technological and artistic revolution not only of theatre technology but also the development of world theatre itself.

Let me take you back, one hundred and thirty four years to 1881 to tell you about a technology which changed everything. Not just lighting techniques, but scene painting, makeup, costume, acting styles, and playwriting itself.

Original interior of Savoy Theatre, 1881. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original interior of Savoy Theatre, 1881. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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