The Courage to Try New Ideas


Bangkok Patana alum utilises his theatre experience to pursue a career in lighting design.

Piers Illing, Grad’15, started at Bangkok Patana in Year 3, but it was in Secondary that he found the inspiration that took him into a career in Theatre.

“Some of my fondest memories at Bangkok Patana happened within the Drama Department. From my first role as Toto in the Wizard of Oz in Year 7, to being involved in the very first show in the then brand new Arts Centre. It was in Drama that I learned one of the greatest skills, having the courage to experiment and learn new things. I will always remember being in the Theatre with Kate Friend and Nita Dewse, having had a long day of programming the lighting for shows. They encouraged me to try out ideas, even if the end result wasn’t what we desired. I think it’s a really valuable skill to be able to try and prototype things out and then have the creative ability to solve the problem.”

“I earned a First BA Hons in Theatre Production from the Guildford School of Acting at the University of Surrey in 2018. I was always interested in backstage theatre and had a yearning to learn more about how it all works. I think my main draw was getting to learn and experience how all the lighting equipment works and how to use it effectively in a real-life application. I’ve always been a tinkerer, which is a trait perfectly suited to working in backstage theatre as you need to be able to solve problems and repair things on the fly, even if you have never used them before.

“During my training at university I took an interest in both scenic construction and lighting. This led me onto a work placement with a set electrics company installing the Matilda UK tour. From this, I ended up working full time as a set electrician for the same company on countless large shows, installs and corporate jobs, installing set electrics. After a year, I made the decision to go freelance as I wanted to have more varied work. In addition to set lighting and electrics, I worked on large scale firework displays such as the Rod Stewart UK tour. This then took me to my current job, working on ‘Back to the Future: The Musical’ at the Adelphi Theatre in London.”

“As the Lighting and Video Number 2, I’m responsible for running the show from a lighting and video perspective within both the lighting and video departments. I’m also responsible for maintaining and repairing the lighting rig and helping to oversee the set electrics, which is my specialism. The show has a vast amount of set electrics including 1.6 kilometres of LED tape and, of course, a fully illuminated DeLorean car.”

“One of the things I really love about my job is the satisfaction of seeing the final polished product, whether it be a completed performance or a finished corporate lighting install, and knowing that others will be able to enjoy what I have helped create. One of those was an installation project for the movie premiere of “IT Chapter Two”. I helped turn the subterranean tunnel system under London’s Waterloo Train Station into a horror experience based on the film. It was wonderful to be able to create an unforgettable experience for the visitors. It has been experiences like this that inspire me; in ten years I hope to be be a lead production electrician, working both in the UK and internationally.”

Piers is one of the many students who has benefited from the World of Opportunity at Bangkok Patana School. Contact admissions@patana.ac.th to see how your child can fuel their passions and develop the determination to succeed.