The judging is carried out by three panels of industry experts in conjunction with prestigious industry organisations the ALD and the STLD.

Theatre Judges

David Benedict

(Theatre Chair) Critic and Broadcaster

David is a recovering actor and theatre director. He has written about the arts in every major national newspaper except The Telegraph and the Daily Mail, was arts editor of The Observer and appears regularly on BBC Radio arts programmes.

“I look for distinctive, imaginative control; the dramatically expressive delineation or enhancement of the flow, pace, mood, tone and temperature of a piece of theatre.”

Neil Fisher

Deputy Arts Editor, The Times

Neil is the Deputy Arts Editor of The Times and an opera and classical music critic.
He is a regular contributor to Gramophone and Opera, and also appears on BBC television and radio.

“Anything goes in opera, where you can be joining the partygoers in crinolines one moment, and then you’re in a dystopian parking lot, or a space station on the dark side of the Moon. Whether we feel truly transported in these moments really comes down to the lighting design, helping to construct a plausible theatre of the imagination, and one in which the singers, chorus and anyone else on stage is helped to play their part.”

Louise Levene

Dance Critic, Financial Times

Louise is a critic and comic novelist. She has been a dance and physical theatre critic for The Independent and The Sunday Telegraph and is currently dance columnist for The Spectator and The Financial Times. Her fourth novel, Happy Little Bluebirds, is published by Bloomsbury.

“Try watching a three-act ballet performed in ‘working light’: key entrances pass unnoticed; vital gestures fail to read. Even the most bread-and-butter lighting  will focus the attention and dramatise the space but virtuoso lighting is a joy in itself and raise quite ordinary movement to the level of choreography: directing the eye; changing the mood; spinning straw into gold.”

Michael Billington

Theatre Critic, The Guardian

Theatre critic of The Guardian since 1971, a frequent broadcaster and author of several books including State of the Nation: British theatre since 1945 and The 101 Greatest Plays (both published by Faber).

“I look for lighting that illuminates the play in every sense, that helps to create a coherent world on stage and that is aesthetically pleasing without being self-advertising.”

Read more from Michael: The Power of Lighting Design

Tim Bano

Lead Critic, The Stage

Tim is an award-winning arts journalist and radio producer. He is joint lead critic for The Stage newspaper, and has written about theatre for The Guardian, The Independent, Time Out, Metro and more. He also works as a producer for BBC Radio 4.

“Lighting and video are, perhaps, the first and most immediate ways that theatre creates its illusion, conjuring a setting and transporting an audience in the instant the show starts. They’re a fundamental part of what makes theatre more of an enticement than boxset bingeing, especially as theatre embraces new and thrilling technologies, which are evolving and improving on nearly a daily basis.

“The best lighting and video design has to stand out, but not dominate a production. I love seeing a scene where the lighting instantly tells me the mood, the atmosphere, the time of day – whether that’s weak, bleak early morning light or a single bright bulb over a kitchen table. And a bit of colour doesn’t hurt, either. “

Zoë Anderson

Dance Critic, Dancing Times

Zoë is dance critic of The Independent and the i, and assistant editor of Dancing Times. She is also the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years (Faber and Faber, 2006) and The Ballet Lover’s Companion (Yale University Press, 2015).

“I look for lighting design that shapes space and reveals movement, that creates atmosphere and draws the audience into the work.”

George Hall

Opera Critic

George has been writing about opera and operatic performance for more than 35 years, including for The Guardian, The Stage, Financial Times and Opera Magazine. He is also a long-term member of the UK Theatre Awards opera panel.

“I look for an approach that combines imagination with technical skill and which underpins the entire production in helping to clarify the themes of the piece.”