“A DAY IN THE LIFE” – Part 2
Welcome back to The Sound of Music blog! Our resident bloggers: Amy Lennox (Liesl) and Luke Fredericks (Rolf) are continuing their trek around all the backstage departments at the Palladium, finding out what goes on behind the scenes! Last blog they talked about the Cast and the Wigs department. This time they are starting off with the Sound Department.
LF: Ok. This is an easy journey across the corridor for me. When they are not working on the show, the Sound department all live in the room opposite my dressing room which is on the top floor at the theatre. So I have got to know these lovely people quite well. So, I can start by introducing David Beckham who is Head of Sound here at the Palladium!Hello David!
LF: For the people reading this, you do indeed share a name with a famous footballer.
DB: Really? Who is that?
AL: Ok. We have now acknowledged this fact and can move on. So, talk us through a typical day ‘at the office’.
DB: We come in at 4:30pm on a normal day or 11:30am on a matinee day, and we check the entire sound system here at the Palladium. There are 260 speakers we have to check daily.
AL: How do you check a speaker?
DB: We put a signal through it. Either some music or someone speaking to make sure it is working properly and that all the frequencies are there on each speaker. We also check all 48 radio mikes that the cast wear too to make sure they are running properly. The batteries are changed in every single radio mike, for every single show.
LF: That is a hell of a lot of batteries.
DB: Yes. 96 batteries a show. Each pair of batteries will keep a single mike going for the length of one show! Once these are changed, we then check all the microphones in the orchestra pit. And finally check the two sound desks positioned at the back of the Stalls are working as they should be.
AL: Why do you need 2 desks?
DB: The main desk that controls the entire show does not have enough inputs for all the mikes so we have a sub-mixer, (a second desk) that sub-mixes all the percussion, keyboards and sound effects that are in the show.
LF: Such as?
DB: There are many different sound effects in the show. There is the thunder and lightening in the bedroom scene, the Abbey bells that toll, the Nazi car that drives off to name but a few! We also check on the guitar that Maria uses as it is designed for the sound of the guitar to come from it, and not from the pit. Then we hand all the mikes out to the cast via their dressing rooms, fit those that need to be fitted and then we do the show.
LF: So how many are there in the Sound Department during a show?
DB: During a show there are 2 of us backstage, fitting any mikes that need altering during the course of the show, checking the mikes for any problems. And then we have one person out front on the sound desk mixing the show.
AL: Do you ever have any massive problems with the sound?
DB: Any massive problems? Well, the rest of the sound team are here. I guess they may want to chip in. Anyone encountered any massive problems?!
BS: We get a lot of problems with the club next door!
BS: They play their music too loud when the show is on in the evenings. Sometimes they hold big showbiz parties and we end up hearing their bass in the auditorium – so when you are mixing it’s really tricky!
DB: Things like that are definitely really difficult to control, but big problems in the show are hopefully avoided by our thorough checks before each and every show. But, it is live theatre and anything can go wrong.
AL: So what is the biggest obstacle you find when mixing a show?
DB: Consistency. The trouble is with consistency is that it doesn’t always agree artistically. The show is a hundred percent live so to keep everything constant and perfect wouldn’t be as much fun! Our job is to find the balance!
LF: Great! Thanks David, now I am going to turn to Becky and quiz her on her job in the sound department! So, what do you do before the show starts? What are you off to do?
BS: Well, as David said, we check the entire sound system. My main duty before the show, backstage, is to fit the radio mikes. We have to make sure they are in the same place every day…
LF: On the actor’s heads?
BS: On the actor’s heads so that at the desk, they get the ‘consistency’ that David spoke about. That way, at least we have a start point every day that we are used to. If the sound is not then loud enough, or clear enough or there is something going on with the EQ or clarity then we can move it around.
AL: What is EQ?
BS: It’s like you’re the Mid and Treble and Bass on your hi fi. There are different frequencies that you can, basically, either induce or reduce to change the sound of anything coming into the desk. Whether that be instruments from the orchestra or the actors singing and acting voices.
BS: Yeh. Whatever. One of the main reasons why I wanted to work on this show was to work with children because I really like working with kids. I worked with them a fair bit when we originally opened the show, and I still enjoy it, although I don’t get to do it enough. They are so great to work with. Actually, everyone backstage is really great to work with, and that is why I do it really.
LF: Cool. Thanks for that Becky. Now, we are heading over to see everyone in our lovely Wardrobe department.
AL: Yep! They are in charge of all the costumes and accessories that are used in the show, and are constantly working to keep them all in pristine condition!
LF: Right, now we have just walked in to the Wardrobe department and the Head of Department is running away because he doesn’t want to be interviewed…..so I am going to turn to Nicole who is second in command. She is now chuckling away because Iwan Harries (Wardrobe Master) has fled. Now for everyone reading this blog, this is Nicole Smith who is our Deputy Wardrobe Mistress. Nicole, what exactly does your title mean?
NS: It means I am the number two to Iwan’s number one! I oversee the maintenance of all the costumes on the show, on things like evening dresses, sewing beads and buttons back on, and making sure things are kept in one piece.
AL: So what is a typical day for you? What time do you come in?
NS: I start very, very early! Twelve o’clock most days!! (laughs) I have to lots of administration, make lots of phone calls….
AL: Phone calls for?
NS: Ordering things. Buttons, shoes…. I am particularly in charge of the children so that is an on going thing.
LF: We are having a new cast change of children very soon, are we not?
NS: Yep! Yet another cast change. All brand new. There are eighteen children (three lots of six Von Trapps!) and it’s my job to measure them, cloth them and find their shoes! Other aspects of my job include a lot of shopping! Often in places like John Lewis, fabric suppliers in North London and continual shoe shopping too!
AL: Do you buy on the high street?
NS: Yes. We buy from a mixture of shoe shops and dance shops.
LF: I know that the boots we all wear as Nazi’s were shipped in from Italy! Why was that?
NS: They make particularly good Nazi boots!
LF: Fair enough! So, what is the favourite part of your job?
NS: The end of the day!!! The favourite part…..at the end of a long ‘get in’ process and everything is up and running and the costumes are looking stunning.
AL: What is your favourite part of the show?
NS: Probably the “Lonely Goatherd”. It’s a great song and a colourful number. The ball is pretty glam too! Even if some of the dresses are a nightmare to keep clean!!
LF: Would that be the infamous White Dress?!!!
NS: Oh yes!
LF: For anyone confused, one of the actresses in the show, Rachel, wears a white dress that is always getting dirty. So, Wardrobe have given her a pink flannel dressing gown covered in hearts that she wears until just before she steps onto the stage to keep it clean!
AL: So tell us what you are actually doing?!
NM: I am painting the sailor shoes for the new sets of children that are coming in!
LF: So when does a typical day start for you?
NM: Um… about twelve as well! We check the diary for notes from the previous day about what needs mending or altering.
AL: So what made you want to embark on a career in Wardrobe and working with costumes?
NM: I did a degree in Costume Production. I originally got into it working on costumes for school productions and took it from there. I trained at Rose Bruford College.
LF: Good college!
NM: Absolutely! All the best people go there!
LF: (That’s where I studied acting!) Thanks Nicola!
IH: 543! That includes all the understudy costumes and the children too! Everything! Costumes that need dry cleaning are sent off once a week. All clothing worn next to the actor’s skin is washed every day. That’s 6 large washing machines full after every show!
LF: I can see you have 4 washing machines and 2 tumble dryers! What happens if a washing machine breaks down as obviously they are vital in the running of the show?
IH: I have to go to John Lewis and buy another one! (Laughs)
More to come in the next blog as Luke and Amy continue their tour backstage at the Palladium! Keep posted!!!
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