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Nunn But the Best - Yamaha Consoles Feature in Debut Season of Theatre Royal’s New Artistic Director

Dec, 2011

2011 marked the debut of Sir Trevor Nunn as Artistic Director of London’s Theatre Royal, Haymarket, with four very different productions. Sound design for all four was by Paul Groothuis, who used Yamaha digital consoles and DME series digital mixing engines to help ensure the season’s success.

The four plays were, in order of production, Terrence Rattigan’s Flare Path; Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead; The Tempest and finally The Lion in Winter by James Goldman. Designing an audio system that could comfortably accommodate a Second World War love triangle, an absurdist comedy, Shakespeare and a 12th century Christmas drama was a challenge, especially as the requirement for radio mics ranged from zero to 24.

“Based on my time working at the National Theatre, I designed an average ‘rep-like’ system for music, effects and so on, which had different components added to it, depending on the requirements of each production,” says Paul.

Supplied by Autograph Sound, this system comprised a Yamaha DME64N for loudspeaker management, routing audio to a house system of Meyer, JBL and d&b loudspeakers. Not needing any radio microphones, the rest of the system for Flare Path comprised a Yamaha DM1000VCM console on stage for effects. The console was fitted with an MY16-AT ADAT interface card, to accommodate 16 channels of music on QLab, running on a pair of Macintosh computers.

In contrast, Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead was a more complex production, with 24 channels of Sennheiser radio mics. For this, Paul brought in a Yamaha PM5D mixing console, located at the conventional front of house position. This setup was retained for The Tempest, which featured a lot of music and added backing tracks to the mix. Finally, for The Lion In Winter, Paul reverted to the same DM1000VCM setup used on Flare Path.

“Two of the most important things are the reliability of the system and taking up as few seats as possible,” says Paul. Flare Path and The Lion In Winter didn’t need radio mics on the actors, there was a fair amount of music but no live singing. So we could do the show with the console on stage. The setup for the other two productions was necessarily more complex and needed an FOH mix position, so the PM5D was the ideal choice for taking out as few seats as possible, yet delivering everything that was needed from the sound design.”

Another key factor in a season of plays, as Paul points out, is the familiarity factor. “I look at shows from the operator’s point of view because I did that for many years,” he says. “The Yamaha ‘language’ goes right through the range - once you know the way they work, you know pretty much how to use them all.

“For a season like this, using Yamaha consoles is a wise move because an operator won’t have to re-learn the desk when we put in a different console - for example when changing from Flare Path to Rosencrantz And Guildenstern and from The Tempest to The Lion In Winter.

“Of course, Yamaha consoles are so widely used that they have the benefit of being familiar to many operators,” he adds. “They are very straightforward, don’t require much training and are so versatile that I can do whatever I want with them.”

As a long-term Yamaha user, Paul has employed the desks on a wide variety of productions, with sound designs that have been enjoyed by many thousands of appreciative theatregoers.

“I’ve used all of Yamaha’s professional digital consoles from the beginning,” he says. “I used ProMix01s on A Little Night Music back in 1995 and have used Yamaha ever since. I have to be flexible in where the desk is located because I do both drama and musicals, and with Yamaha I know exactly what I’m dealing with.”

Featuring some of the acting world’s biggest names including Ralph Fiennes, Sienna Miller, Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley, the four-production season has been a huge success with several of the productions seeing an extension to their runs. Whether treating the audience to the roar of a squadron of Lancasters or the intricacies of Shakespearean dialect, Yamaha consoles have also played their part well.

Data

Products PM5D , DME64N , DM1000VCM , MY16-AT

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