Chloe Ogilvie: There are plenty of female designers…there is no excuse

Next up in our series of blogs with the Cockfight team is Chloe Ogilvie, the lighting realiser for the tour.

She’s been working with designer Mark Howett for a number of years, as well as on projects with Ochre Contemporary Dance, Yirra Yaakin, at The Blue Room Theatre and much more.

Chloe is also part of the Black Swan State Theatre Company Artists-In-Residence Program for 2018. Thom had a chat before the gang opens the show in Hobart this week.

Oh hi! You’re Chloe Ogilvie, Lighting Designer by trade and Lighting Realiser on Cockfight. How do you describe what you do to someone at a party?

I really dislike talking about myself, so I try to keep the description brief.  It usually goes along the lines of, “Yes I work in theatre; No I’m not an actor; yes I went to WAAPA; No I don’t know Hugh Jackman”.

I’ve found the easiest way to explain it to people is to relate it to set design because that is a bit more tangible for them where as lighting seems to be a bit more mythical for some reason.


Has that always been a passion of yours? How did you get started?

I started in high school like most people, except my high school was in the middle of nowhere, and had about 17 lights.They asked for a volunteer to help the “lighting man” and I put my hand up because moving props backstage wasn’t glamorous enough for me, then the “lighting man” left town and I ended up being the only person who could use the lighting and sound system at my school. It was a great way to get out of class on assembly days but I didn’t think it was a career. In my last year of high school I worked with an artist/set designer (Matt Mcveigh) who put me onto WAAPA so I applied, got in and just went with it I guess.

You’re a (relatively) recent graduate from the WA Academy of Performing Arts. How was the transition from being in an academic environment to taking your skills into the theatre and onto the road? What guides your decisions when it comes to the projects you choose to take on?

WAAPA was a crazy hands-on experience – we have three functioning theatre’s on campus and by the time you’ve graduated you’ve worked on over 30 productions of every shape and size, so it wasn’t a huge transition. The biggest difference was the way we interact with other departments, its more collaborative in the professional environment, which I enjoy. Also getting paid is great!

I mostly take on projects with people who I’ve worked with before such as The Farm, but other than that I mostly take on projects that are trying to start a conversation on a topic I believe in (like Maiden Voyage Theatre Company who work towards fighting gender imbalances in theatre)


You got to the UK for the start of the Cockfight tour. What was it like to see an international tour kick off? Was it different from working in venues in Australia?

Watching the Cockfight UK tour kick off was an absolute highlight for me and was such a great experience. The biggest difference was the language barrier, even though they speak English the amount of slang used in theatre is huge and we spent a lot of time trying to explain what a turnbuckle was only to find out on the last day they call it a “bottle screw”.

Above + below: Chloe lit Toast by Maiden Voyage Theatre Company

Yirra Yaakin’s The Fever & The Fret


Chloe is part of Black Swan’s Artist-In-Residence Program this year


Chloe is working on Black Hole Productions’ new development The Line

Where do you draw your design inspiration from? Which LDs do you most want to work with?

My design inspiration as a whole actually mostly comes from other art forms, mainly photography and current art trends. On a show-by-show basis I usually like to draw inspiration from the show itself and how the story needs to be supported. I am very lucky to spend a lot of my time with Mark Howett who has probably influenced my work the most. I like to learn from anyone and everyone but it would be great to spend more time around other female artists.


Do environmental considerations inform your design choices? Do you think the day will come when LED is the standard?

I’m a bit of a slacktivist, I feel really strongly about environmental issues etc. but I’m useless at implementing changes (I finally bought a reusable coffee mug though).

I also am a bit of a fan of traditional tungsten sources. I do think that once LED can replicate the warmth and look of tungsten they’ll rule the world.


Performing Lines is all about identifying shows and artists that are contributing to urgent conversations Australia and the world need to have. What is a conversation you think Australia needs to have right now?

As an Indigenous woman I am always for starting conversations around the gender imbalance in design as well as the lack of Indigenous designers. I think it’s really important for theatre companies and AD’s to consider gender parity across their design teams for shows (and not just employing females as costume designers). There are plenty of female designers out there, across all disciplines so there is no excuse.

I also think that we should be making more of an effort to encourage Indigenous people to consider design as a career. Whether that means employing visual artists as set designers, or giving the younger mob work placements etc., whatever it takes. The responsibility also shouldn’t just be placed solely on Indigenous companies.

In everything we do, we acknowledge that we live on Aboriginal land and constantly learn from the wisdom of First Peoples.

Where we are and the history that precedes us informs how we work and how we move forward.