JOHN SPRADBURY 08 March 1930 - 06 June 2014
Actor, writer, stage manager, company manager and above all lighting designer, John Spradbery participated enthusiastically in many aspects of British theatre between 1950 and 1975. He was, however, perhaps best known as a theatre lighting designer working with the highly innovative auteur, Lindsay Kemp and the avant-garde Drury Lane Arts Laboratory.
After attending RADA he met Kemp, a master of mime and physical theatre, who was the first serious artist to openly portray homosexual themes in the theatre. Their relationship was an unlikely blend of opposites, Spradbery’s discipline and reliability paired with Kemp’s extravagant daring. Spradbery and Kemp famously worked with David Bowie, for whom Spradbury would go on to light the first Ziggy Stardust performance at the Rainbow Theatre in 1972.
His lighting has been described as having a dreamlike aesthetic with bold chiaroscuro and astonishing colour intensity and dynamism. He personally operated his old-fashioned manual lighting board every night, his fingers playing on 100 sliders so it was never the same from one day to the next, because it was always manually ‘performed’ by its creator.
In recent years, he wrote several books including one on his father My Dear Jim and two on his experiences with Kemp Memories — In celebration of 25 years of the Lindsay Kemp Company, and Lindsay Kemp: a Renegade of the theatre, 2011.