Return to the Forbidden Planet</I> is currently making its way around the UK (photo: Nobby Clark)
UK - The 25th anniversary tour of Return to the Forbidden Planet is currently making its way around the UK, complete with a Flare Audio loudspeaker system, representing the first major touring musical production to deploy the recently launched X2A Compact Vertical Point Source Array system. Along with the X2, the show's system also carries Flare Audio's Q18 subs and the micro X0s for delay and front fill duties.

Flare Audio's polished aluminium speakers are an aesthetic match to the cult musical's 1950s sci-fi theme, and with Ben Harrison's new sound design, the combined effect is meteoric. He has been impressed with the X2's overall performance, explaining:

"Their size and profile mean they slot easily into traditional proscenium rigging positions where other traditional line array systems would struggle to fit. They perform very well, and so far have proved to be a very efficient system, coping well with smaller houses such as Brighton Theatre Royal and much larger auditoriums like Birmingham Alex

"I worked very closely with Dave Barthomeusz and Chris Headlam from Orbital, getting very strong support - as we were the first ever to be hanging the X2s weekly in different theatres, and exploring how diverse the system really is. It's very, very diverse. There is no doubt that there is something different about these speakers. It is difficult to say exactly what it is, and we are still discovering things about the X2s and their flexibility. They do sound different, perhaps in terms of the perception of volume, resulting in a surprisingly loud show that sounds fantastic. It really is fascinating to be in on Flare so early on in their evolution."

For Ben, redesigning the musical required a sensitive touch: "Initially I was nervous about redesigning a musical that so many people have heard and loved for so many years. It is performed by a cast of 11 actor musicians, playing a vast array of instruments including drums, guitars, keyboards, brass, woodwind, a theramin and even a stylophone, all live and all on stage. The cast doesn't just stick to one instrument - five of them play drums over the course of the show, along with guitarists switching to brass instruments and back with ease.

"With so much happening on the set, a big challenge of the show is monitoring and making sure each actor can hear what they need to - the show is mixed on a Yamaha CL5 and Yamaha's iPad app meant I could get up amongst the cast during rehearsals and make changes to the foldback, whilst hearing exactly what they did from exactly where they were stood."

Production sound engineer, Andrew Fugle, worked closely with Ben on the specification and building of the Planet touring system, applying his extensive knowledge of the Yamaha CL5 and Dante protocol.

For company manager Mark Shayle, the Flare Audio system is certainly living up to expectation: "Aside from the tremendous sound that the sound number one Sam wrings out of these units, you have to love the aesthetics. For our production, the deliberate decision to leave the pros boxes in all their "shiny metal glory" really adds to the visual impact of the show. Additionally, I really appreciate the small footprint of the pros speakers, helping us in terms of sight lines and access to the stage from FOH treads used by the Company."

(Jim Evans)

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