Carolyn Downing Confuses The Believers with TiMax
The Believers (A Frantic Assembly production) recently completed a successful run at Kilburn’s Tricycle theatre, featuring sound design by the Olivier Award-winning Carolyn Downing, who used a TiMax Soundhub audio showcontrol matrix to create a complex and sometimes awkward soundscape to complement the physically demanding and theatrically elevated perspectives of the performance.
Throughout the play Downing’s soundscape, realised by sound engineer Hamish Bamford, is jolting and at times antagonistic, riding towards a final crescendo of tragedy which is depicted visually with flashes of darkness and light, and sonically with fractured shards of different voices and sounds all converging from different directions.
The sound system for the production was comprised of three parts: the theatre’s existing FOH system; a stage system with two sub units, two EM Acoustic EM61 enclosures upstage behind the set and a further two flown on truss in line with the set; and a surround system of six EM61s configured as left and right pairs.
Downing created in QLab a series of stereo effects beds plus mono spot effect ‘snaps’ in varying lengths, from less than a second to more than three seconds. Bamford assigned the first eight TiMax inputs in pairs to default stereo Image Definition setups for the beds, so Upstage left and right, FOH left and right, Cinematic left and right, and Surround left and right. Other TiMax inputs were assigned to the QLab spot effect sources, and MIDI Cues from QLab were used to trigger TiMax pan Cues for the various stereo bed dissolves and spot effect pan moves. He explains, “The synchronised playback and movement of the sound effects between the speaker images was then a simple button-press set up: stage left to Cinematic right with a timeline of 2.5 seconds, for example.”
Downing explains her vision, “The crescendo of the performance is marked by this montage of sounds moving all around. The effect I wanted was confusion and what TiMax enabled us to do really intensified that. The audience struggled to grasp where any of the sounds were actually coming from, and in darkness it was a very disorienting experience in every seat of the auditorium.”
The Believers charts the progress – and wildly different perspectives – of two families flung together on a night of cataclysmic weather. Bruised, tired and seduced by the flow of alcohol, they wrestle with their differences until, suddenly, an unthinkable tragedy befalls one family but severely affects both.