AN INTERVIEW WITH... JOSHUA PHARO - LIGHTING DESIGNER | EXTINCT
Hello, Joshua! What does a Lighting Designer do?
A lighting designer is part of the team that looks after the creative decisions in a show. Lighting
Designers work with the director, set and costume designers, choreographers, sound designer and
video designers to work out the aesthetic world and look of a show, the visual ideas and languages
we want to use to tell the story. We analyse the script and set design, looking at the approach we
want to take with the lighting. We then interpret that into a lighting plan, where we choose and draw
up what types and where the lights will go in the theatre, from the large digitally controlled lights to
the tiny lights that are embedded into sets and props.
We are then in rehearsals, learning the show and generating ideas and paperwork ready for technical
rehearsals. In technical rehearsals we have focussed all the lights, typically over one hundred lights,
which we then programme into cues, which create all sorts of different looks which fit to all the
different moments in a show. Finally we then use the preview shows to refine and polish the lighting
design, until press night when we hand it over to the in house lighting team to look after and run
How does someone become a Lighting Designer?
There are many routes and no person is the same, but you can become a lighting designer through
training, both on the job - working up from a lighting technician to studying at college and university. I
worked as a technician at my local theatre when I was 16, then studied a BTECH in technical theatre
alongside my A levels, then I went to Rose Bruford College in Sidcup to study a BA degree in Lighting
Design. Since graduating, I have worked as an electrician, programmer, assistant designer and
associate before designing my own work full time.
What are some of the challenges that Lighting Designers can face?
I think from a day to day point of view it’s keeping on top of the creative and technical challenges
that occur on a daily basis during rehearsals and tech. The job is very much a duality of creative and
technical thinking, both of them inform each other and when they work really well together it can be
But there is quite often many creative and technical problems to solve at the same time, which can
feel a bit overwhelming at times, but I have gradually found that you just have to keep yourself calm
and communicate your ideas and feelings as clearly as you can and you can always rely on your team
to help you solve problems.
What do you love about your job?
I love that I get to learn so much about different peoples lives and experiences through the stories
that each show explores. I learn about so many subjects and ideas through each project, that I never
know what I will learn about next. I totally love that. I also love working with light, it’s such a
beautiful, elemental material to use- it still amazes me how magical it can be.
Who or what are some of your inspirations?
I think as a person, I’m hugely inspired by radical female and queer artists: Bjork, Tilda Swinton,
Derek Jarman, Grace Jones, Alexander McQueen. In terms of theatre making I have really loved
artists like Kneehigh, Complicite, Shunt, Nigel & Louise, Frantic Assembly, Russell Maliphant, Hofesh
Shechter and Pina Bausch. In terms of lighting designers, I am so inspired by many contemporary designers, Paule Constable, Michael Hulls, Katherine Williams, Malcolm Rippeth, Lee Curran and Jessica Hung Han Yun to name a few.
Lastly just looking at nature is a huge inspiration, light is a fundamental part of our lives every day.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into Lighting Design?
I think as well as the technical training and experience, start out on your journey of learning about
and working out what makes you tick about theatre making. Working as a lighting designer is also
being a theatre maker and you’ll find it easier to talk to other members of a team, if you have an
interest in what we’re all trying to do together, which is to make a really engaging, inspiring
experience for an audience to watch. Take inspiration not just from other theatre shows, but the
wider world; painting, photography, film, art, politics, gaming, people, places... it all helps influence
What’s your earliest theatre memory?
Being taken to my mum’s am dram rehearsals when I was about six and sitting in the theatre chairs,
enjoying that theatre smell, which I still love to this day, even if I didn’t love the singing that much!
If you didn’t work in theatre, what would you be doing?
I’d love to be a gardener, there’s nothing I love more than being outside in the sun, pottering around
in a garden.
TV Show: It’s super cheesy but I’ve loved AJ & the Queen on Netflix. Also, Grayson's Art Club and
Gardeners' World have been my rock during lockdown.
Film: Orlando by Sally Potter - I still adore it even though it’s almost 30 years old.
Play: Euripides Laskaridis RELIC at the Barbican
Album: Cosmo Sheldrake - Wake Up Calls
Book: The book you wish your parents had read by Phillipa Perry.