profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 23 in a continuing series
Lighting Designer and Theatre Consultant
David Taylor grew up being able to see the dome of St Paul's Cathedral from home, school, college or work. Early school holidays were spent exclusively at London Zoo, where his father was head of the photography department, and where prolonged summer afternoons were lazed backstage at the monkey pavilion - a great preparation for work in a number of West End theatres and opera houses during his late teens. From stage door keeper at the Old Vic and Savoy Theatres, to being in command of the copious blood in the West End production of House Guest starring a scowling Gerald Harper, he worked with Ray Cooney, Russ Abbott, Derek Jacobi, Lynda Baron, Colm Wilkinson and a gaggle of other stars (when the West End was full of stars) - mainly cleaning up for them or making them appear brighter and younger than they really were.
Having actually lied about his age to get his first job (and being driven there by his mum), and under pressure from his parents and school staff to go to college so he could get a real job, he found himself at the University of London in a brand spanking new black box where everything depended on lighting. Sensing an opportunity he didn't actually go to sleep for three years and managed to light all but a few of the college productions in a nurturing and exciting atmosphere. He won a wonderful scholarship to study lighting design at the University of Massachusetts during which he realized that Stanley McCandless was the most incredibly terrible lighting designer who has, by his legacy, ruined more productions than any other entity, including the Black Death.
He had already hung around outside the Theatre Projects offices in Covent Garden in his teens and a benevolent Benny Ball took him around to meet everybody a couple of times. David observed this as a cat-burglar would case out a joint, and when the opportunity to interview as night draftsmen offered itself he carted his lighting portfolio off to the gods at TP and got a job . . . although no one was quite sure what it was. He joined the lighting design office post Hersey and Bridge, and during the departure of Benny and Simon Bruxner Randall, but shared a corner with the great Robert Ornbo in the office above Richard Pilbrow's.
He worked for Theatre Projects Covent Garden and Light Limited doing incredibly fun lighting jobs including St Katharine Dock, a wilderness created in the Natural History Museum and a teeny model of Broadgate and London Bridge, but somehow he was sucked across Long Acre into the main consultancy in Langley Street. Here, he inherited Dick Brett's office swivel chair which has brought to his bottom no end of success.
The eighties went by in a blur of theatres in Malaysia, Yorkshire and Kilburn - his collaboration as the techie-masochist with Iain Mackintosh led to the new Orange Tree Theatre, the Lawrence Batley Theatre and the refurbished Tricycle Theatre which remains his favorite theatre in the world. He became the secretary of the ALD and the unlikely spokesperson for lighting for Equity and the industry. He continued to light many shows and had a productive collaboration with set designer Mark Bailey at the Watermill and Theatre Royal, Plymouth. He spent a hysterical season creating Sleep with Friends on tour with Wayne Sleep (you can imagine from whence originated most of the hysteria, tears and hissy-fits) and he created the inaugural season of Stowe Opera as set and lighting designer (he rather fancied the production manager there, actually).
Richard Pilbrow, the reason for Theatre Projects and indeed for the lighting dreams of many a young man in the eighties, began to tempt him to the United States in 1990 (once David had married the cute opera production manager who had cut his budgets for the last few productions). But it was not until 1993 that he succumbed and headed off to leafy Connecticut to manage projects for the fast growing US operations of Theatre Projects Consultants.
Since arriving Stateside he has managed projects to renovate the Geary Theatre in San Francisco, the Hollywood Bowl and the Ahmanson Theatres in LA, the incredible New Amsterdam as the flagship Broadway house for Disney, a new 2000 seat theatre in Disneyland and the new home for the Academy Awards in Hollywood. This month the new concert hall for the Philadelphia Orchestra opens after well over six years of design, programming and development . . . now he might get a break to go home and see his wife and two sons. He owns a bit of Theatre Projects and works as partner to Richard Pilbrow to create the very best team of experienced and creative theatre people. His projects have won 13 international and national awards over the last ten years. When not on a plane or in the office he spends most of his time building Lego, though a small digital music production studio and some skis add some variety to the bricks and wheels. He has a picture of St Paul's by his desk.
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