Theatre

The Unreturning - UK Tour Sound Design - Frantic Assembly

The last few months I’ve been fairly flat out concentrating on Sound Designing  Frantic Assembly’s The Unreturning with Director Neil Bettles Directing a completely awesome company in one of the most collaborative processes I’ve been involved in for some time, it was such a delight to be part of and I felt very lucky to be involved.

This was a bit of a dream working process for me, being in the rehearsal room from day one (for 3 out of 4 weeks of rehearsals) and being part of the creation process even before that with Neil, Andrzej Goulding (Set and Video Designer), Zoe Spurr (Lighting Designer) and Lily Arnold (Costume Designer) and the rest of the team, it’s exactly how I love to work.

The show opened in Plymouth on Monday 24th September and will be on tour around the UK, you can find the dates on Frantic’s website here, and info on the whole team there too.

 Bit of rehearsal action in London

Bit of rehearsal action in London

I’m half way through writing up a bit of a series about the equipment and processes I use for workshops, rehearsals and how I use Ableton and QLAB in those situations. I used a similar set up in rehearsals for The Unreturning and eventually programmed everything into QLAB, but will wait to go into detail about that until I’ve finished.

There was a lot of content to create for the show, we recorded the excellent actors for some part of the Sound Design too, and worked with a bunch of different music tracks. It was an extremely good example of how to integrate Spotify into the process, as I suggested in a previous post, it can be such a useful way of collaborating and evolving a musical palette. Our playlist started with Anna Jordan (Writer), who added some tracks as she wrote the piece, which allowed us into her world and how she was feeling about the piece. Then Neil added as he read the and I joined, threw in my own thoughts and we all continued to add to the playlist even up to the final days of previews, it was part of my job to then expand on this and integrate some of the musical palette into the show.

I like to be part of the rehearsal process early on as I enjoy working with everyone in the rehearsal room and allowing the whole team to influence parts of my Sound Design process, and I hope the Sound Design can influence decisions in other departments too, its fair to say it’s not always possible to be around full time, but it’s always super interesting to see what inspiring ideas come out of that collaboration.

Frogman April 2018

Last week I was at Shoreditch Town Hall with ‘Frogman’ a play I first worked on with Curious Directive last year which took me to Australia for 3 weeks of on site recording for a 360 film that becomes part of a live theatre show. It’s been an incredible learning curve for me to work with VR content, not only that but being able to support 50 audience members having an individual auditory experience whilst also collectively allowing them the experience the live theatre piece.

There are huge hurdles to overcome and still some more to work on as the show progresses, but as an experiment within multi disciplinary theatre its been a super interesting challenge and well worth a watch/listen, especially if you’re interested in VR.

The show just finished a 2 week run at Shoreditch Town Hall and will play at Arts Depot in Finchley for another week. Check it out here:

https://www.artsdepot.co.uk/theatre/curious-directive-frogman

I’ll be posting a little more about the process soon, a few photos and trailer below!

 

 

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 hard work but having been part of the show for years previously and now getting a chance to go back in and learn the op again it was very rewarding.


In early January I led my first design transferring to St Ann's Warehouse over the bridge from Manhattan in DUMBO, Brooklyn. An incredble space to work in, with it's own challenges, though the view from the back door has to be a highlight.

The show was Phyllida Lloyd's The Tempest. The third all female Shakespeare piece set in a women's prison. I led a great team at St Ann's and we updated a fair amount of the system compared to the original version in Kings Cross. I also switched from an SD9 to the in-house Yamaha CL3 which took some re-programming but was a fairly smooth transition. After some recommendations I also decided to use Valhalla room through Mainstage as an effects processor and it was great, especially as the cost implications are so minimal. We also went with a pretty much full Meyer speaker system which suited the shows content, the Sound Design isn’t particularly subtle so these provided a good impact for the upfront content to the audience.


In February I came back to the UK and 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 was met by an astonishing team. Ben Grant as Associate. We had a brilliant set of operators Yamina Mezeli and Neil Dewar, alongside David, Maddy and Alice as part of the Theatre team. The show was technically complex for all departments and I had to come up with some interesting ways to react to the show's ever evolving set of needs. It’s a very engaging process to create with Simon and we were constantly reacting and refining throughout.


At the same time Ben and I re-mounted Beware of Pity at the Barbican Theatre, which we had made with Simon the previous year at the Schabuhne theatre in Berlin. It was my first design to be live streamed on youtube outside of The Encounter. They did an excellent job of capturing the audio for the show and I took 3 days of listening and tweaking the final product, heres a link to the Q&A of the Director, Simon Mcburney and Artistic Director of the Schaubuhne Theatre, Thomas Ostermeier.
http://www.complicite.org/live-stream.php


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 him as a collaborator but also with his fantastic music. We worked closely with 4 musicians he and Jo bought onto the show to create the sonic world of the show.

A few years ago I started taking piano lessons as a way to develop my skills and 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 leading that change from an audio perspective was an interesting task of maintanance and preservation, whilst keeping in a position where the actors are changing and adding their own take on the piece, reacting to those updates.

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. I took on the whole process of audio production on this project which meant planning, recording, processing all of the audio content from the on set filming. Then the theatre part of the project which was about finding the very best way to give an audience the 360 audio experience in a theatre context.

 

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 more Sound Design 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 leading the Sound Design of.


The Seagull gave me an opportunity to play with 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. The White Bike was in 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. 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 had to put together a strong team for what was a difficult venue to implament a design into, production engineer Guy Colletta, who worked with Gareth Fry and I on The Encounter, took on the production engineer role and getting our system into this none theatre building was 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 was an audio/movment led sequence with a headphones and each room was very different in style and size. Part of the challenge was 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 great situation to work our way around and we came away with something to be very proud of.

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, I took time learning more about the many sample libraries I’ve not delved into before and went much further into MIDI in Logic X. I've now begun writing music aimed towards media for a brilliant European publisher. This time away from Sound Design has been helpful to focus on my own projects outside of theatre, and I’m looking forward to bringing focus back into theatre again this year.

There are a lot of exciting Sound Design 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.
P

 

Evening Standard Award - Best Design - The Encounter

A few weeks ago Gareth Fry and I were awarded the Best Design award in the Evening Standard awards for our work on Complicité’s The Encounter. Conceived, Directed and Performed by Simon McBurney, the piece allowed us so much freedom to experiment and give an audience auditory cues to key into their imagination, it was a real pleasure to put together with such an wonderful team of collaborators. 

Gareth does an amazing job of listing those we wanted to thank and so linking to that would be easier than trying to do so again:

http://www.garethfry.co.uk/new-blog-avenue/2016/11/14/best-design-award-for-the-encounter

The team of Sound Engineers/Designers/Operators we’ve worked with are second to none. The show is always alive and changing all the time, they keep the world of The Encounter afloat and work like musicians with Simon to react to these new ideas and changes. We’re very lucky to have them! 

It’s also key to mention the gratitude we have for being awarded the Best Design award and how, Sound Design has been recognised and considered for a design award not only that, but amongst other design disciplines too. I only hope that it can help spread this school of thought elsewhere.

All dressed up at ES awards

War Correspondents 2014

During April of this year, I worked with Helen Chadwick and Steven Hoggett on a project Helen has composed called 'War Correspondents'. A sung theatre piece about the lives and experiences of War Correspondents over recent years. The lyrics of the sung music were taken from interviews with War Correspondents talking about situations of conflict they had covered and their thoughts on 'War Journalism'. From a sound perspective there is a lot of interesting material to play with from the original interviews as well as finding the best way to integrate the voices of the interviews into the music and between songs. We also worked with Sound effects with specific pitches hidden as an extra layer so the singers could catch a pitch to work with for the next song they are heading into.

Movement is such a big part of the show alongside the music that I decided to bring a Leap Motion device into rehearsals to play with. Using the LEAP with a piece of software called GECO, it allows the user to manipulate effects and trigger cues using the movement of your hands, In our case pushing downwards towards the device triggers a filter effect which is dialed up and down depending on the height of the singers hand, when it is lower it allows a recorded musical Drone through, but when its higher we hear a helicopter and no drone, the singer has direct control over this mix during the scene and uses it as an instrument to accompany his song.

Leap Motion/GECO GUI

The show initially toured around the UK in spring this year, but will also now be playing in London in October with a few dates around the UK after that.

War Correspondents @ Birmingham Rep 2014

2014 Jan - July

So I realised its already July and most of the year has gone by without any updates here. So will be posting a bit more frequently now. To start off just a quick backlog of the year so far, starting in January! I began by Shadowing the lovely Carolyn Downing during a few of her tech processes, which was a great insight into her working process and general views on Sound Design, a lot to learn from an intelligent designer doing some very interesting Sound work.

I then went on to design a, slightly alternative, theatre piece located inside St Leonards Church in Shoreditch called SUN produced by National Art Service, It was a really friendly company to be part of. Talking technically one of the most enjoyable experiences was being able to locate sounds around this huge expanse of space whilst also (if needed) dislocating the sounds from specific places and abstracting the sounds of the exterior central London evening. Shoreditch is a very active part of the City and it doesn't let up for anything, Its not something I'll go into lightly again but it opened up a different world of using the spacial relationship with an audience.

SUN 2014

Then worked as Associate on the Almeida verison of 1984 for the very talented Mr Tom Gibbons after having worked with him on Lionboy last year. This then went onto transfer into the Playhouse in London.

 

Following this designed and operated a double bill of new work funded by Aldeburgh Music, Royal Opera House and Opera North called The Commision/Café Kafka, through which I worked with Elspeth Brooks to integrate an element of Sound Design and live sound into her composition.

 

The Commission 2014

Then went on to Sound Design a project called War Correspondents Directed by Helen Chadwick and Stephen Hoggett which then went on to tour the UK. It will be back for some London dates in October followed by some more touring and I'll talk more about in a separate post.

Brothers Stag doo...

Brothers Wedding!

I then worked with Mr Gareth Fry once more on a design for 59 Production's projection map of the Sydney Opera House.

For June I've been in Aix en Provence with The Magic Flute once again as Gareth Fry's Associate, helping to fit the design into their fairly unique venue and transferring all the changes we had made back into a German version of the show after re-making it in English at the Colloseum for the ENO last year.

The Magic Flute Aix en Provence 2014

July so far, I've been in Salzburg (Hallein to be exact) Sound Engineering and Operating a new production for the Salzburg Festival. A Katie Mitchell/ Leo Warner piece Sound designed by Gareth Fry and Melanie Wilson called The Forbidden Zone.

 

 

The Noise - Digital Playscript Phase 1

The Noise (Unlimited Theatre), a show I co-sound designed last year has been turned into a digital playscript. We took a few days to go through the Sound Design for the show and added cues into the text - which hopefully represent what would have been heard in the theatre to a certain degree - alongside a whole array of awesome features that make the script a much better representation of the show than a paper version. Making a more engaging and easy to follow script to take away from the show! Pop some headphones in and check it out here! http://uneditions.com/

The Noise Digital Playscript

Autumn/Winter 2013

Since the last post about the Magic Flute in London, it has opened and closed its doors to the public. It seems about time for an Autumn/Winter update having neglected blogging for a while. First was a brief trip back to Newcastle and the Theatre Royal for a re-mount of the RSC's, David Farr, version of Hamlet, Working with the amazing Claire and Jon from Stratford. Moving the sound for the show from a Thrust design to an end on design was a good challenge, but great to have a good set of proscenium speaker positions to replicate some of the design and luckily the majority of onstage speakers were able to stay in similar positions, so we could still bring sounds down to be part of the onstage action, but bring some of the music to the front to push some energy into the audience.

IMG_4024

This was followed by The Magic Flute at the ENO which was great to bring a show back with a totally different crew and venue to last year and also interesting to see what a UK audience made of it. The space was quite different, but one of the more successful features of the design ended up being the blending of the re-enforced dialogue with the acoustic sung pieces.

IMG_4045

The Noise also returned for a brief visit to Leeds' West Yorkshire playhouse and to the Warwick Arts Centre. Had a great in house rig in Warwick's studio space and a much better position for a set of Vocal Speakers, used (as the name suggests) for radio mics on the cast, brilliant to hear the show in a more intimate space and layout, it really helped us to mix the sound/music content with the dialogue.

(Yes I'm now addicted to Panoramic iPhone shots, even in the studios!)

Noise Warwick arts

Foley booth - ENO Magic Flute

The Magic Flute is now rehearsing ready for the autumn showing at the English National Opera's Colliseum in London. This (Mcburney's) version of the opera first played in Amsterdam last year and is currently transferring to the uk whilst also being translated into English.

This time around we have a slightly smaller foley booth with the extremely talented Ruth Sullivan as our lead Foley Artist, who is also stepping into her acting shoes too. 

This is our new foley booth (below) which is still being finnesed, eventually to be equipped with 4 shelves, a small table and various hooks for all sorts of foley items, along with its own light. A mic for the table and a second for footsteps. It's exciting to hear the foley begining to be put into place again, and it will be great to get into the collesium and get the sound design sitting inside the piece.

20131016-100559.jpg

The Noise @ Northern Stage

noise_blockThis week I've been teching Unlimited Theatre's The Noise in Newcastle's Northern Stage (Stage 2). The story is a "sci-conspiracy thriller", and on the island of Whitley the most notable feature is the constant 'Noise' being emitted by the island. Working as Co-Sound Designer with Gareth Fry, we've been playing with different types of Noise and how much of it we can push the scenes by using different styles of 'Noise'. There is real anger in the characters of Whitley caused by these relentless and ever changing  sounds they can't get away from and it's been really interesting in finding how to achieve this whilst still allowing the clarity of the story to come from the actors. There is also composition by David Edwards (AKA Minotaur Shock) which has been a pleasure to work into the show and if you get a chance check him out! IMG_3942

The Noise opened here in Newcastle on Friday 4th Oct and runs until 12th October. It then tours to Warwick Arts Centre and West Yorkshire Playhouse in November.

I thought I'd share a few interesting bits of research I came across, whilst looking into science related sound inventions, firstly the ishin-den-shin  http://www.ivanpoupyrev.com/projects/ishindenshin.php

Secondly the Hypersonic sound speaker invented by Woody Norris . hard to show the workings of online,  but pretty cool nonetheless! http://www.ted.com/talks/woody_norris_invents_amazing_things.html

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HF9G9M0cR0E&w=560&h=315]

Farragut North

This week Farragut North at the Southwark Playhouse starts it's 3 week run. I've been working alongside a very talented Composer, JudeObermuller and we've been putting his score into the Southwark's, new, Large Space. Although in a fairly difficult 'thrust' setup we had some fun playing with layers of his music and locating it in different spots around the room, hoping to add another dimension to it.

Farragut North: Southwark Playhouse
Farragut North: Southwark Playhouse

Farragut North will be playing at the Southwark Playhouse's Large Space until 5th October


Space Junk: Lyric Young Company

This week I've been at the Lyric hammersmith, working with the young company to devise a new play entitled Space Junk. Reading A book by Andrew Smith Called Moondust and getting into the stories of the moonlanders and astronauts that were involved in the Apollo missions. The book takes the viewpoint of the author/journalist meeting the remaining men that traveled with the Apollo missions. It's pretty remarkable some of the stories that these men can tell, their intellect and technical knowledge mixed in with there lives after the landings is extraordinary.

The devising process has been a really well structured and creative one, working within key rules and focusing on certain influences. It's been a really open and exciting room to be in!

Space Junk will be playing from Thursday 29th - sat 31st in the Lyric Hammersmith Studio

SpaceJunkweb

Marguerite Sound Design - Tabard Theatre

Marguerite at the Tabard Theatre opens on Tuesday and runs for three weeks First Revival in London since 2008 - a re-written script and new orchestration.

margeuriteframe
margeuriteframe

The show has been a lot of fun to design, a brilliant team of creatives and actors, some great music and stories too.

Director - Guy Unsworth, Producer and Musical Direction - Alex Parker, Choreography - Cressida Carré, Design - Max Dorey, Lighting Design - Howard Hudson, Sound Design - Pete Malkin