10 May 2017

20 Questions: Martin Kinnane

20 Questions: Martin Kinnane

By Cat Strom

Martin Kinnane is busy. As is his way, he’s designing all over the place from independent theatre to national tours to state theatre companies. His work has been on show in every state of Australia for every major company.
His event work has included Sydney’s New Year’s Eve, Master’s Games, World Youth Day and White Night. Overseas, his designs have reached Japan, the UK, France, New Zealand and the USA with his show Absinthe running in Las Vegas for the last five years.

What are the three best things about your job?


Meeting new and interesting people.

Making things look amazing.

Sleeping in.

And the three worst things?

Too many clowns in the industry.

Seeing shows that are terrible.

Being too busy to get to sleep in.

What has been the strangest request from a director?

Not so much a request but to have creative meetings and discuss having tight evocative lighting, then to see rehearsals and the actors are all over the space all the time. I did hear of a sound designer being asked to make it sound more orange.

In your opinion, what’s the best show you’ve worked on and why?

There have been so many. Many years ago I lit Alone It Stands a play about a Rugby Union match between the All Blacks and an Irish team from Munster. It was a fun show with six actors playing 60+ roles. I am still very good friends with them and have worked on many different projects with them, both here and overseas.

Which production was a total nightmare and why?

Well I don’t think it would be a good idea to name names, but there are a few people I’d never like to work with again. Though I have had a few nightmares with people I would work with again.

Which ‘known’ production would you most like to light and why?

Well I’m probably in the big line of people that would love to design U2’s next tour.

Who do you admire in the industry and why?

Willie Williams – such a thoughtful designer who doesn’t rest on a single idea and Es Devlin, an amazing set designer for theatre, opera and concerts.

Do you have a specific style?

I try not to, that would be boring to do the same thing every time.

Which venue in Australia is your favourite and why?

Oddly, I quite like the Reginald Theatre at Sydney’s Seymour Centre. For a small theatre it has a lot of height and there are bars and pipes everywhere so you can hang a light where ever you want.

Do you have a favourite piece of lighting gear and why?

I’m still quite keen on the tungsten VL1000 as it is reasonably quiet and has shutters, making it very theatre friendly.

Is there a new piece of lighting gear you’re keen to try out and why?

I’m quite excited about all the new “searchlights” that one person can move. The Claypaky SuperSharpy 2 and Mythos 2, the Vari-lite VL6000 etc. Some of the LED profiles are very nice too.

What would your ideal rig contain?

The correct lights for the job and also the ones I actually spec’d!

What’s your preferred control console and why?

For theatre an ETC Ion so I can lean over and push some buttons but for events, the console that my programmer knows backwards. I like the PRG desks but don’t get to see them as much as I’d like.

Favourite/ most used colour?

L713 JT Winter Blue.

If you could invent anything to do with lighting, what would it be?

The beam cutter, I think it would be really useful and I’d make a lot of money out of the patent.

What is your pet hate with other people’s lighting designs?

Showing off that there is a lighting design when that is not required – playing with toys for the sake of the toy rather than the production actually needing it.

What do you think of the Australian theatre industry at the moment?

Due to funding still being up in the air it’s all a bit small, not many risk takers or daring productions.

Do you have a favourite mantra to get you through the day?

Inexpensive never cheap.

What have you got locked in for the near future?

I Love You Now at the Eternity, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for Sport For Jove, Hurt for White Box, Thai’Riffic for The Theatre Division, and the Wharf Review for Sydney Theatre Company.

What did you really want to be when you grew up?

A helicopter pilot.


Published monthly since 1991, our famous AV industry magazine is free for download or pay for print. Subscribers also receive CX News, our free weekly email with the latest industry news and jobs.