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Carolyn Downing confuses The Believers with TiMax

The sound designer used a TiMax Soundhub audio showcontrol matrix to create a complex, awkward soundscape for the Frantic Assemblies play

The Believers, a Frantic Assembly production which recently completed a successful run at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London, featured 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 comprised three parts: the theatre’s existing FOH system; a stage system with two sub units, two EM Acoustics 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 and 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.

Bamford explains: “The synchronised playback and movement of the sound effects between the speaker images was then a simple button-press setup: stage left to Cinematic right with a timeline of 2.5 seconds, for example.”

“The crescendo of the performance is marked by this montage of sounds moving all around,” comments Downing. “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.” It ran at the Tricycle from 22 April to 24 May.

Photos: Helen Maybanks