Sound designer Paul Gregory with the HOME Organization's new SSL Live L500 console.
Manchester, UK (December 8, 2014)—While the organization HOME is currently building its new performing and visual arts complex, the performance group held a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at Manchester’s historic Victorian swimming baths.
The show was controlled by an SSL Live L500 console, supplied by HD Pro Audio. HD Pro Audio technical director Jasper Gilbert and sound designer Paul Gregory will later install the L500 in HOME’s new facility for continued use.
For Romeo and Juliet, HOME employed a promenade-style production that moved actors and patrons through three large swimming pools. The main bulk of the action happened in the empty ‘female’ pool, with the finals scenes on the cross structure in the filled ‘Gala’ pool, where Juliet’s body floated. Retold in a contemporary Eastern European criminal underworld, this production included Balkan choirs and Gypsy music by Macedonian composer Nikola Kodjabashia.
As Gregory explained, “For Romeo and Juliet, we were very reliant on the console operator getting feedback from the stage management team roving with the performance. Much is pre-programmed and level adjustments must get radioed to the operator. In addition to 16 channels of radio mics, there were 16 inputs from a live band, plus a dozen channels of playback from Figure 53’s QLab on a Mac that was triggered from the L500.”
The Romeo and Juliet audio team distributed about 200 inexpensive small speakers and used individual delays to overcome the Baths’ long reverb times. “The idea was to pick up actors using head mics and bring it as close to the audience as we could, which we found incredibly easy to do with the SSL desk,” explains Gilbert. “This production is also staged in such a manner that one character never actually appears on stage. So, in addition to the distributed speakers, there were also traditional PA-like speakers for the actor’s disembodied voice, as well as larger-scale speakers with subwoofers for the music.î
HOME’s new complex rejuvenates Manchester’s First Street area and will be one of the first theatre venues in the U.K. to have an L500 permanently installed. Besides its 500-seat main theatre, it also houses a 150-seat flexible studio space, digital production and broadcast facilities, a 5,300 square-foot gallery space, five cinema screens on the third floor, as well as a cafe bar and restaurants.
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