Designers work on Sadler’s Wells show with no dancers

Designers are working on a new show at Sadler’s Wells, which will take visitors on an interactive journey around stage and backstage areas to help them feel and imagine what is like to perform and support performers.

Lighting designer Michael Hulls working on his lighting installation on the main stage at Sadler's Wells
Testing the lighting installation on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells

Dance house Sadler’s Wells is engaging a raft of designers and visual artists to create a show which won’t feature any dancers.

No Body is a first for the London venue, whose artistic director Alistair Spalding has commissioned lighting designers, sound artists, filmmakers, composers and visual artists.

Audiences will be led around different areas of the building, beginning with the stage before backstage passages, corridors, wardrobe rooms, sound boxes and underground pits are explored.

An installation in each of these areas will help the audience imagine how the spaces function individually as part of a broader interpretation.

Enter via tunnel

The audience starts on stage, entering a black box accessed via tunnels. This box frames the installation by lighting designer and Sadler’s Wells associate artist Michael Hulls.

Tungsten bulbs will drop down from the ceiling in clusters of 12. They will be a range of wattages and fade up and down in brightness as sound installations by Mukul and Andy Cowton begin.

Lighting designer Michael Hulls working on his lighting installation on the main stage at Sadler's Wells .
Testing the lighting installation on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells .

Hulls says: “It’s energy made visible and visitors will be able to see the light and feel the warmth. Some of the lights will reveal the tiniest glimmer but it helps you visualise their energy.”

“White light will feel almost solid”

This will give way to a video projection Hulls has worked on with animator Jan Urbanowski. It will be beamed down onto the audience from 16m up in the air. “A black and white abstract animation will wash over everyone in the space. Brutal bands of white light will feel almost solid,” says Hulls.

Lighting designer Michael Hulls working on his lighting installation on the main stage at Sadler's Wells .
Lighting designer Michael Hulls working on his lighting installation on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells .

Coloured LEDs will then cross fade from the floor and overhead before 130 Tungsten lights descend from above, resting just above the audience’s head so they can again feel the heat.

“As you’re bathed in light from different sources you begin to understand what it feels like as a performer to be lit,” says Hulls.

AV and animation piece by Nitin Sawhney

Visitors will then be led through an AV and animation piece by musician and Sadler’s Wells associate artist Nitin Sawhney. Front of house and back stage areas will be explored while listening to commissioned recordings played over headsets.

Siobhan Davies and David Hinton have created a film installation made with sound artists, animators and 22 dance artists that will be shown in a rehearsal space.

The film follows a woman running round London and is paused live at random intervals to reveal more content from the other artists involved.

Backstage departments reimagined

Lighting designer Lucy Carter has highlighted backstage areas such as wardrobe, lighting and sound using light installations to “theatricalise each space,” she says.

Carter adds: “To show my trade as a lighting designer I’ve used beautiful Tungsten lights, which sadly lighting manufacturers want to stop people using.” It is a looping non-narrative piece.

Lucy Carter and Jules Maxwell work on their installation for No Body
Lucy Carter and Jules Maxwell work on their installation for No Body

She has also brought the stage manager’s technical area to life with an AV piece where visitors will see data for a show and hear the disembodied voice of the stage manager.

Each person and team in Carter’s installations are represented as a different abstract light source.

At the end of the show a triptych film installation by Russell Maliphant, Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones is shown in the Lilian Baylis Studio, where unseen choreographed dance footage of the 2013 short film Erebus is revealed.

No Body runs from 7-12 June at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN

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