Alumni Q&A: Jack Berry | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Alumni Q&A: Jack Berry

Our Production Lighting graduate, Jack Berry, has been travelling the world working on productions including Ghost the Musical, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Motown. He talks to us about how Central helped kick-start his career.

Why did you decide to study at Central, and why lighting in particular?

I had always known that lighting was what I wanted to do from a young age and would get involved in this for my annual secondary school's musicals. When looking for courses, there were only four backstage production courses that took my liking, two of which were at Central. The second I visted for the Theatre Practice open day I knew it was for me. The friendliness of the staff and the facilities, as well as the information given to me about job prospects made Central exactly what I was looking for. The work graduates were doing and some of the companies that they had worked for sounded amazing and I knew I had to go somewhere that supported that. 

Could you tell us a little about what you’re working on at the moment?

I am currently working on the UK and Ireland tour, Motown, The Musical as Deputy Head of Lighting and Video and have been touring since September 2018 as a department of three. It’s a very fun show to work on and the music is great. The lighting consists of 3 pre-rigged lighting trusses, 3 booms each side and a number of FOH units, all of which are toured. It is controlled by an ETC Eos System and relit and operated using the ETC Gio. The video is made up of around 250 video panels connected to the automation system so that they can track and move around the stage to wherever the designer wanted them. These are controlled by two disguise video servers and triggered using the lighting desk.

What might a typical working day look like at the moment?

A typical day at work doesn’t really exist in touring theatre. One day you can go into work at around 5pm, do a rig check followed by odd jobs such as sorting flight cases, fixing broken moving lights and then operating the show. Other days it can be as if there isn’t enough time to do everything. The hours will tend to stay the same but the amount of work and the tasks that you do varies every day. 

How did the Production Lighting course help prepare you for the work you have done since graduating?

The course helped prepare me for the industry by giving me the skills and ability to constantly learn and expand my own knowledge. I learnt a lot while at Central but the course pushes you to undertake additional learning, whether that’s going to training days for more in-depth knowledge on lighting desks, courses in electrical safety or even just through talking to industry professionals about how they got to where they are and how you can get there too. Lecturers also share their industry knowledge which can give you a push in the right direction for where you need/ want to go.

Could you tell us about other work you've been involved in since graduating?

Since leaving Central, I have worked on a range of different West End shows and touring productions. My first job after finishing my degree was Stage Electrician on Groundhog Day at The Old Vic. I also missed my own graduation as I was away on a four month tour of Ghost The Musical in China as a Video Technician! 

I have also worked on a season at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre and on the UK tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and continue onto the international tour as the Lighting No2. The show took me to places that I never thought I would be able to visit such as Amsterdam, Toronto, Melbourne and Singapore. 

Was there a single key moment/show/placement that stands out for you as the thing you learnt the most from? 

My time working as Chief Electrician on Sweet Charity at Central in my final year really stands out for me. This was the biggest challenge I had while at Central, but I was lucky enough to have Martin Chisnall as my professional mentor to support me. Martin would come in to discuss things that I had planned and give me his advice on elements that I wasn’t sure on. Having Martin as my mentor led onto a placement with him the following term on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Part 1 & 2. Seeing a show start from the prep and paperwork stage all the way through to tech was invaluable. I learnt so much from just watching Martin and the other production electricians during that time. 

How crucial would you say networking is for a successful career – how did Central support you with this?

Making the right impression is paramount and I can easily trace back my career to one specific day of work while I was studying at Central. All it takes is for the right person to meet you and to like how you work for you to get the next job. Central supported me a lot in this, from bringing in visiting lecturers, industry professionals, or putting you in contact with someone specific to answer questions. They taught me not to be scared of being inquisitive. Being a graduate of Central is also one of the best networking tools in itself as I am yet to do a job where there isn’t someone else from Central involved in some way or another.

What advice do you have for young people think about careers in lighting?

I have two pieces of advice for people thinking about lighting careers. The first is enjoy it! If University is the route you’re going down, make sure you attend one that will support you and push you in the ways that you don’t know you need pushing, choose somewhere that you feel comfortable in and a place where you can ask questions. Secondly, keep learning, teach yourself new skills, and keep researching new products and regulations, and stay up to date with the latest information in the industry - continue to meet new people to keep expanding your network.

Find out more about the course

Find out more information about our BA (Hons) Theatre Practice - Production Lighting course.

The friendliness of the staff and the facilities, as well as the information given to me about job prospects made Central exactly what I was looking for.