Client: Fire Exit//David Leddy

Shortlisted for the Lighting Design Awards 2010 Low Carbon Award.

White Tea is a complex, multi-layered piece of visual theatre in which the audience wear white paper kimonos and drink white tea as they sit within a cocoon of paper prayer flags and origami birds. Lush images of Japan (shot by Leddy himself in Tokyo and Kyoto) are projected on all four walls and even the ceiling whilst cutting-edge LED and laser technology illuminate the space.

Within this otherworldly installation an absurd, eccentric story unfolds of beauty, brutality, giving and grieving. We follow Naomi (award-winning actress Gabriel Quigley) and Tomoko (Alisa Anderson) as they journey from Paris to Japan in search of Naomi’s sick mother and a long-lost sister that nobody knew existed.

The piece deftly uses the role of tea in British and Japanese life as a way to explore colliding cultures, clashing personalities and the sinister demons a daughter leaves unspoken. It takes influence from Japanese minimalism as well as Kakuzo Okakura’s one-hundred-year-old Book Of Tea, and Sei Shonagon’s one-thousand-year-old Pillow Book and even the artwork of Yoko Ono.

White Tea was written for theatre but performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – in an office! This placed complex technical demands on the design of the show. A box section aluminium frame was designed to fit just inside the room, with white fabric attached to the walls and ceiling for use as projection screens. The set was adapted to included two Japanese styled floor lamps which would also act as projector positions.

Lighting would need to isolate performers at key moments, fill the space at others and provide vibrant, dynamic colour washes to accompany fast paced musical sections.

A miniature lighting rig of LED spotlights, each individually addressed and dimmable, were mounted on internally wired beams and clipped to the setwork frame. Optics were carefully planned to accurately divide the performance area into discreet units. Twelve translucent light boxes, fitted with 16-pixel RGB LED panels, were underhung from the lighting rig. A central platform in the space gradually unfolded to reveal a glowing light box. The smallest venue in the Assembly Rooms now contained over 1,000 channels of DMX, with a ceiling and floor capable of displaying low resolution video.

Show control was run from two laptops by a single operator, with over 100 combined video, lighting and sound cues. Video content projected real and figurative imagery to augment the setting and reinforce key messages in the text. Sound ebbed and flowed through the room, one speaker in each corner and four built into the set

White Tea is amazingly complex and yet astoundingly energy efficient – total lighting power consumption “all on” is under 1.8Kw.

White Tea can be built up or broken down in under four hours, and fits neatly into a van. A successful Scottish tour has now been completed, arriving, performing and leaving on the same day if required.
White Tea has won considerable acclaim including a Scotsman Fringe First, Herald Angel, Edinburgh International Festival Fringe Prize and positive reviews in major UK newspapers.


Written and directed: David Leddy
Performed: Gabriel Quigley and Alisa Anderson

Assistant director: Steff Smith

Set & costume: Becky Minto
Lighting Design: Nich Smith
Sound Design: Graham Sutherland
Video projection: Tim Reid

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