The RSC’s acclaimed musical production of The Secret Garden opens shortly in London - after a hugely successful season at Stratford-upon-Avon. Lighting designer Chris Parry (better known for his work on Broadway) and sound designers Andrew Bruce and Terry Jardine have helped to bring the timeless tale to life for a 21st century audience.

Parry says: "The design of the show is much more monochromatic, dark and dramatic, and much less colourful and decorative than the original Broadway version, which I think is great for the piece. Despite this, it has a huge range of lighting quality, from a soft, dim candle-lit bedroom scene through to a big, bright and energetic dance number with gardeners and house-maids!"

Parry’s design, furnished partly from the RSC’s stock of conventional luminaires, but with a large hire inventory supplied by White Light, included eight Strand PAL Pirouettes and 14 MAC 500 moving lights. Parry says the Strand units are very bright and flexible - although his favourite tool for this production was the DHA Digital Light Curtain, eight of which feature in the design. Colour scrollers were also much in evidence, with 94 spread between the Source Fours, Pars, fresnels and Pirouettes. Control came from a pair of Strand 520 desks, and Parry was assisted by the RSC’s Paul van der Hayden and ably supported by chief electrician Vince Herbert.

For Andrew Bruce, the burden was eased by splitting the workload between himself and Autograph co-director Terry Jardine. Bruce handled the sound effects, handing over the band and vocalists to Jardine. His main production tool, a DAR Soundstation paid dividends by the time the show moved into the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. "Adrian Noble loved being able to see the various effects tracks on the screen - he was able to visualise the timeline and how everything fitted together. It also helps that he is a comparatively young director who is technologically aware and who understands the vocabulary that we use." Out Board Electronics’ TiMax level/delay matrix, supplied by Autograph, adds extra dimension and source oriented reinforcement (SOR) to the sound effects in the production. The small robin in the garden, for instance, who speaks through the mind of the central character Mary, would be imperceptible but for the location of its voice through two small tweeters at the front of the stage.

In the theatre, Bruce and Jardine had specified a Cadac E-Type console with a G-Type sideframe, a 24-channel Sennheiser UHF radiomic system, and a Meyer-based split speaker system, arranged using console subgrouping to allow separate EQ for vocal and music feeds rather than compromising one for the sake of the other.

Unusually for an RSC show, the vast majority of the audio system was brought in from Autograph Sound Recording. The delay system made use of the RSC’s in-house Proac Tablettes - though Jardine pointed out that when the production transfers to London, Meyer UPMs will be used as they are better able to cope with the higher levels required for a musical. The Secret Garden transfers to the Aldwych Theatre in February.
Mike Mann

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