The off-West End fringe venue the Space, and its in-house company, Space Productions, are building a solid reputation around great acting and direction as well as new and challenging drama. The company’s sound designer, Keri Chesser, is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of sound design within the intimate site, confidently manipulating the audio framework of productions using a TiMax SoundHub spatial audio matrix. Not only are sound effects cleverly integrated but also the intimacy of the theatre’s atmosphere is enhanced and also exploited for benefit of audience reaction.
Chesser and the Space Productions team have recently staged a minimalistic adaptation of Howard Barker’s The Castle, which confronts highly complex political themes, where TiMax once again topped her tool kit. “I love to use TiMax,” she explains, “It makes me braver with my sound design. Makes me want to discover new ways of manipulating the audio rather than just sticking to the limitations of the speakers I have.”
The invisible loudspeaker set up comprised just seven cabinets: two compact speakers at floor level in the audience, pointed at the walls for diffuse surround, two monitors on the stage mezzanine and a further two hidden PA speakers positioned upstage along with a sub. Seven outputs from TiMax drive the loudspeakers directly, and sound effects from Q-Lab on a Macbook Pro go to TiMax via Dante, which Chesser used or the first time for this production. She attests, “Working with Dante was a lot easier than I thought. I’d been putting it off but, with help from Dave Haydon from OutBoard, it actually made my life so much easier - and there were less wires” Midi-triggers from QLab fire corresponding immersive 3D spatialisation and panning Cues programmed within the integrated TiMax PanSpace and TimeLine spatial rendering and showcontrol tools.
The Castle atmospheric sound beds are central to the stage direction, and TiMax is used to build and calm tension as well as to create incessant rain and other weather effects. The script also requires various spot effects in specific locations, such as bodies falling and landing from the battlements, and the distant screams of hapless torture victims. Chesser explains, “TiMax offers so much more spatially than Q-Lab and enabled me to anchor sound effects very efficiently. I just created the image objects and told TiMax how the imaging and movement needed to happen.”
Space Productions present small-scale performances at the highest level. Acknowledging the benefits of combining versatile TiMax spatialisation with familiar QLab playback and sequencing, Chesser asserts, “I could have just used Q-Lab to statically pin the effects but it would not have worked nearly as well – particularly sounds coming from beyond the audience. The atmospheric sounds would definitely not have been as immersive as I wanted it either. The Castle is a brilliant play but it is difficult to play with: there are a lot of devices to bring you straight back into the action of conflict and rule – and with TiMax I pulled it off brilliantly.”