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A Show in the Life of... A Sound Designer/Engineer


Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be responsible for the sound for a production? Well, you’re in luck! We sat down with Ian Darling and Scott Rampton, the sound technicians for our upcoming double-bill of The Monkey’s Paw (Scott) and Little Grimley Presents… Strictly Sex Factor on Ice (Ian) to ask them all about the role…



So, Ian, Scott, how did you get involved with the current Twyford Drama production?


IAN: Charlie, the director of Strictly…, asked me to get involved during the previous production of

...Beeches, which I also did the sound for.


SCOTT: I got involved with The Monkey’s Paw just by being asked to help out. I’m always down at Twyford Drama as my son (Jac) has been acting in four productions.



And what does the sound role actually involve?


SCOTT: For this production, I’ve been involved from the very start. In short, you have to read the script and figure out what effects are needed.


IAN: I tend to get involved as soon as I get a script, reading that script and coming up with a draft set of music, sound effects and noting what cues are needed. I put these into SCS (Show.Cue.System), which is software we use that helps you organise all the sounds, adjust them, and cue them up as needed. Once the director and cast have completed "blocking" and start rehearsing fully, I try to get to most rehearsals after that with SCS and iterate on it each time. That way, I can find out if sounds don’t work or need changing early on. By the time we get to the show week, I should only need to fine tune things like the volume levels, and I’ll be familiar with all the cues in the show. That last one is also really helpful for the cast for the same reason – they can react to the actual sound cues during rehearsals rather than being told "doorbell rings" by the director or something, so by show week they know the sound cues as well.



What do you enjoy most about doing the sound for a production?


IAN: Song selection is always fun. It’s also important to get right because it frames the whole production – introductions to Acts 1 and 2, walk-down music, and even what you play in the interval to set a mood. I usually pick out dozens of songs, follow links on Spotify to get related songs and reminded of ones I’d not thought of to start with, and then winnow them down, for each part of the play to try and capture the right tone. For the interval music I try and associate songs to characters or groups of characters in the play.


SCOTT: My favourite part is trying to come up with different effects, old and new.



And is there anything you find particularly challenging about the role, or about working on this production in particular?


IAN: Having only done sound for a handful of productions (Spider's Web, Ladies' Day, ...Beeches and Strictly...), the editing work is a skill I've had to learn as I go – tweaking things to sound right. Strictly... has required a few things to have some very precise editing to ensure it all blends together correctly, so I’ve had to work on those skills quite a lot for this show.


SCOTT: The only challenge I’ve had in The Monkey's Paw has been sorting out two different effects at one time.



How did you each get involved in amateur dramatics and doing the sound?


SCOTT: I really got involved by accident, I suppose right place right time.


IAN: As for me, I moved to Twyford during the summer of 2002, a couple of years after graduating, and came to see the autumn production of The Devil's Disciple. I got chatting to David A. Goddard, who was on the sound desk then, during the interval (not to be confused with David P. Goddard who is doing our lights) to find out how to get involved, and started coming down occasionally to see what was going on. I got involved properly when we did Dame Agatha the following year, which I was cast for as PC Friendly, and started getting involved in set building as well. When David moved away a few years ago, we then ended up with a gap for running sound. Now a few of us are involved in sound, Gavin in particular does a lot here because he’s maintaining and upgrading the sound hardware we have as well.



Are there any particular skills, know-how, or even personality traits you think someone needs to be suited to this role?


SCOTT: I would say just be yourself and listen to what is needed!


IAN: From my perspective, I think there's a lot of attention to detail necessary. Sound cues need to be edited and timed precisely with what's happening on stage, and the sounds themselves have to be balanced correctly, not too quiet, not too loud, enter and exit smoothly. On Strictly... I've gone down to the level of zooming into the sound waves at a few thousandths of a second to line up two sounds correctly, because then the audience won't notice there's even an edit made. A quick-and-dirty rough edit which is slightly off is fine early on to check something works in principle, but by show week you can’t have anything that would be even slightly jarring.



And finally, what can audience members expect from the October double-bill?


IAN: I can't speak for The Monkey's Paw, but from the “sounds” of it that will be creepy on all fronts! As for Strictly..., there's some laughs just on the song choices alone, but it's a hilarious script and our cast and director are doing great work bringing those laughs to life.


SCOTT: I think the audience will be on the edge of their seats watching The Monkey’s Paw as it is very dark with a good storyline.



If you'd like to find out more about doing the sound for a Twyford Drama production, visit our Get Involved page and get in touch.



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