The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber: the tradition of the ghost light

Tue 15 Jun 2021

Since the unprecedented closure of theatres like Curve during the pandemic, stages across the globe have remained lit by Ghost Lights. But what is a ghost light and where does this tradition come from?

Theatre is full of superstitions. One must use only the phrase ‘break a leg’ and never ‘good luck’ before a show to discourage evil spirits from deliberately causing one’s performance to suffer; wishing someone ‘good luck’ would actually cause bad luck for the actor. The ‘Scottish play’ should also never be named as, according to folklore, it was cursed from the beginning by a coven of witches who objected to Shakespeare using real incantations. Disastrous, even deadly consequences have happened to performers of this play ever since. Another superstition in the theatre is that of the ghost light.

Usually a floor lamp, a ghost light is a small, single bulbed light that shines on the dark stage when the theatre is closed and unoccupied. This is often used to guide people working late around the stage – nobody wants to fall into the orchestra pit!

Curve’s ghost light on stage during lockdown.

In a more superstitious sense, it is believed that the light helps deter spirits from emerging, whilst others believe it appeases the theatre ghosts, helping them to take centre stage and perform themselves!

Perhaps the most sombre side of this superstition – which has particularly relevant over the last year – is that it’s bad luck for a stage to have a long period of time ‘unlit’. In the name of hope and tradition, our Buildings and Technical Director, Jay Bridges lit the Curve ghost light in our theatre during lockdown. With our stages dark for 14 months, our ghost light sat in its brilliant (risk assessed!) brightness until our doors were able to reopen to audiences.

In our production The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, we return once again to the image of this simple light on the stage, symbolising so much hope and resilience for our industry and all those for whom theatre means so much. After such a long period of darkness, it feels even more special to once again illuminate our stage with these magical performances and finally shine the lights of Curve brightly for our audiences.


Feature image: Ria Jones performs to Curve’s ghost light in our production of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Photography by Ellie Kurttz.