2017 Round up

2017, Its about time for a round up of last year. This will be the longest post i’ll be doing for a while but I’m hoping to post much more frequently!

I started the year in New York after workshopping The Kid Stays in the Picture with Ben Grant as associate, and Simon Mcburney Directing. We worked with 7 US Actors for a few weeks and it was incredibly fun. At the same time I was stepping in to operate The Encounter on Broadway over New Year, again a lot of fun having been part of the show for years previously and now getting a chance to go back in and learn the op again.

In early January I had my first design taken to St Ann's Warehouse over the bridge from Manhattan in DUMBO, Brooklyn. What an amazing space. The view from the back door has to be a highlight.

The show was Phyllida Lloyd's The Tempest. The third all female Shakespeare set in a women's prison she has created. I was lucky to have a great team at St Ann's led by Jimin and we changed a fair amount of the system compared to the original version in Kings Cross. We also switched from an SD9 to the in-house Yamaha CL3. After a bit of a pre-programming job it was a fairly smooth change. After some recommendations I also decided to try using Valhalla room through Mainstage and it was great, especially as the cost implications are so minimal. We also went pretty much fully Meyer which suited the shows content really well. The Sound Design isn’t particularly subtle so these provided a good whack for the upfront content.

In February I came back to the UK and we began the rehearsal period for The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Royal Court, the same show we were workshopping at the end of 2016. I loved working at the Royal Court and once again I was lucky enough to be met by an astonishing team. Ben Grant as Associate is always on top of everything and a brilliant designer in his own right! We had a wonderful set of operators Yamina Mezeli and Neil Dewar and alongside David, Maddy and Alice at the Theatre. It’s a technically complex show for all departments and we certainly weren't left out of that. It’s a very engaging process to create with Simon and we were constantly reacting and refining throughout.

At the same time we re-mounted Beware of Pity at the Barbican Theatre, which Ben and I had made with Simon the previous year at the Schabuhne theatre in Berlin. It was also live streamed on youtube, but as that's no longer available, heres a link to the Q&A of the Director, Simon Mcburney and Artistic Director of the Schaubuhne Theatre, Thomas Ostermeier.

The Kid Stays in the Picture was a highlight of the year and I hope we can go back to the show over the next few years and continue the work we started.

Next up was Twelfth Night at the Manchester Royal Exchange. Directed by Jo Davies, I was yet again surrounded by a lovely team and welcomed into what is a weird, yet interesting theatre to work in and a beautiful building. I had the pleasure of working alongside Alex Baranowski who Composed on this one and it was a delight to work with his fantastic music. We had a fun time with the musicians he and Jo bought on board.

During first part of the year I was starting to write more music and teach myself a bit more piano than the basics I already had. Having worked with Alex, it pushed me to continue to spend some time on developing those skills outside of the the Sound Design world and it's been refreshing to do so.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had it's first cast change in London spring 2017 and I learnt a lot about how that change happens. It was awesome to see new faces take on the roles with their own skills and readings of the characters.

Into June and Frogman, following a lot of research and experimenting with 3D video and audio,  I took a 3 week trip with Jack (Artistic Director) and Milla (Designer) from Curious Directive, to Brisbane, Australia. We worked with 4 young actors in a set made especially for our 3d film content. It was a very big learning curve into the world of Virtual reality and 360 video. From the initial planning of how to record the whole thing to syncing it with the video, locating the sounds in 360 for each audience member, designing content in 360… There was a lot of firsts for me on this show and I’m really proud of what we achieved

Milla was interviewd for a great piece talking about the Design elements of Frogman here

During those three weeks the Tony Awards Ceremony in New York took place, where Gareth Fry and I were awarded a Special Tony Award for our Sound Design work on Complicité's The Encounter. Not only this, but alongside our award The Tony's also announced that Sound Design categories will resume as a regular yearly fixture after they were axed in 2014. A huge moment in the year and a big step in the right direction for the recognition of Sound Design on Broadway!

Back over to Brisbane to finish off the filming and finally back to London to edit the recordings. I plan to do a set of short walkthroughs of the process so I can get a bit more detailed in that, but for now those interested should check out Facebook 360 spatial workstation. We then created the live theatre side of the show, I should explain that the concept of the show is part VR and part live theatre. Frogman will be back in the UK at Shoreditch Town Hall in 2018 and you can find out more here: https://shoreditchtownhall.com/whats-on/frogman

After a break in august I started working on two projects. The first was Simon Stephens’ adaptation of The Seagull, directed by Sean Holmes at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. The second called White Bike, newly written by Tamara Von Werthern, directed by Lily Mcleish at The Space in Canary Wharf. They were very different projects and both exciting to be part of.

The Seagull gave me an opportunity to play with lots of naturalistic content against a less naturalistic set and lighting design, working closely with the rest of the creative team, and lovely sound team at the Lyric in a fairly large/mid scale venue, along with an opportunity to get my hands a little dirty with the Digico SD10. The White Bike had a much smaller venue and so smaller system also, but it’s content and the integration of the Sound Design had a more abstract sensibility, matching the staging. Again a wonderful creative team and we were pulling together a beautiful piece of work in a short time. We workshopped some ideas in 2016 and we found it useful to start a collaborative playlist on Spotify where Lily and I could form ideas for an auditory world, which grew over the year and played in rehearsals whilst devising, a large amount of which ended up in the show in one way or another.

Once finishing both of these I moved to Hull for a 4 weeks to work on The Last Testament of Lillian Billoca. Written by Maxine Peake and directed by Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight. We had been in conversations and meetings about the project since early 2017, it was a large scale site specific project in Hull’s Guildhall, a still fully functioning building in the centre of Hull. We used 4 main rooms and a handful of small auxiliary rooms around the building to tell the story of Lillian Billoca, a controversial, strong campaigner for the working rights of trawler men in the late 1960s.

I was lucky enough again to have an awesome team, production engineer Guy Colletta, who worked with Gareth Fry and I on The Encounter, took lead on getting our system into this none theatre building, a bit of a challenge but Guy is the master at this. We worked with live Music from The Unthanks in two of the rooms, one room with a headphone Sound Design/Movement piece and each room was very different in style and size, so we had to decide how best to link or unlink the rooms and corrioors, depending on the audience experience and route around the building. It was a real challenge and we got to do some exciting things both with the content and the system.

In December I decided to focus on music and composition. I went to the Tune Up event on the Southbank, which was an inspiring day, took time learning more about the many sample libraries I’ve bought over the years and not played with, went much further into MIDI in Logic X, and began writing music aimed towards media for a brillaint European publisher. This time has been so helpful to focus on my own projects outside of theatre for a little while, and I’m looking forward to bringing focus back into theatre again.

Tthere are a lot of exciting projects on the horizon, in and out of theatre, the UK and abroad. I plan to post more often, to put my thoughts down about projects I’m working on, software and hardware I pick up along the way, walkthroughs for things like 360 audio capture, sync, and getting that to a live theatre audience, composition, sound design content creation,  etc… Though, one of the hard things about posting about the show you’re working on in theatre is the secrecy behind it, especially before press have been in and reviewed the show, you want to keep the excitment. So I’m aiming to work around that and show the parts of my own process that I can. Some people pull this off in a very slick way so hopefully I can find some ways.