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FEATURE LIVE/THEATRE Invisible Sound


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David Sturzaker as Abelard with Jo Herbert as Heloise


Jory MacKay talks to the sound crew behind the latest production from English Touring Theatre, which has been bringing the sound of Shakespeare’s Globe to theatres across the UK.


I Zieba’s work on another of Howard


f the motto of a good theatre sound designer is to be heard and not seen then sound designer


Derrick Zieba and sound engineer/ tour technician Rob Jones might as well be invisible. Te duo’s latest effort for the English Touring Teatre and Shakespeare’s Globe co-production of Howard Brenton’s Eternal Love (previously titled In Extremis) brought the look, feel, and sound of Shakespeare’s Globe to venues around the UK during an eight-week tour. While the stage design is immediately recognisable as Globe inspired with entrances on either side; a central curtained inner stage; and a balcony housing the play’s musicians, it left Zieba with the task of figuring out how to naturally and authentically translate the sound of an unamplified performance at the Globe to more modern, 1,000-person+ playhouses. “My brief was that they wanted to


reproduce what they had at the Globe, but not just in small theatres, [but also] in big theatres – much, much bigger spaces,” explains Zieba, who has spent his career fluidly moving between the worlds of theatre, rock ’n’ roll, and large productions such as the Brit Awards and MTV Awards, among others.


22 June 2014


Brenton’s plays, Anne Boleyn, would lay the groundwork and act as proof of concept for their approach to the sound of Eternal Love. “Anne Boleyn’s brief from John


[Dove, director] was that he didn’t want to see any microphones, and the brief from Bill [William Lyons, composer and musical director] was that he wanted it to be as natural as possible, but that the natural sound was lifted in those bigger venues so it didn’t sound too quiet.”


Eternal Love follows the love


story of controversial 12th century philosopher Abelard (played by David Sturzaker) and his 16-year-old student Heloise (Jo Herbert). With Abelard already on thin ice with the church over his theological arguments, the uncovering of the lovers’ affair (prompted by Heloise bearing a child out of wedlock) puts him at odds with Heloise’s uncle and de facto father Fulbert (Edward Peel). Te play’s plot follows the tragic


story of the two intellectual lovers attempting to live free from the control of the church with the rich modern dialogue supported by period- specific music from William Lyons, Rebecca Austen-Brown, and Arngeir Hauksson.


Taking it on the Road


“We tour everything. We’re completely self sufficient,” explains Jones during the show’s run at the Teatre Royal Brighton. “To keep everything as natural as possible there’s no [proscenium] PA. I asked them to take it down just so we get a cleaner visual.” Clean and natural are at the core of


A DPA 4099V clip with a 4061 microphone on the vielle


the production’s sound design. Tucked away behind the flats stage left and right and invisible from the audience are loudspeakers from d&b – one Q7


per-side (expandable to two for bigger venues), complemented by a Q sub. “Just to make it really difficult for


myself I didn’t want any speakers showing on the front so all the amplification is done from behind the flats,” explains Zieba. “So literally we’ve had to EQ the Q7s in order that once it goes through the flat it’s naturalistic, but it does mean as far as the audience are concerned they get a very naturalistic focus on the music.” Maintaining the ‘invisible sound’


aspect, the actors are unmic’ed except for three Shure SM91 float mics across the top of the stage for some of the singing moments and to give a bit of foldback up to the band. “Tis is where my background in theatre comes in as most rock ’n’ roll guys would never think to try to amplify the cast members in front of the loudspeakers, but from experience, I knew I could make it work,” adds Zieba.


At FOH, Jones runs a 32-channel


Yamaha M7 taking in 16 inputs from the stage and band, and outputting 10 channels, including additional recorded instruments for the shows finale jig (a Globe tradition). While the kit is quite simple in theory, the mix of the show is a bit unconventional. “In principal, I mix the show


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