"It’s hard to see how this production could be improved on. Festive family theatre rarely gets better than this." Nigel Smith for The Stage
I’ve always admired Bolton Octagon as a great producing house, local to home town and yet until this point in my design career, I'd never worked in this lovely building. I was so pleased when Musical Director and long time friend Richard Reeday, enquired to see if I would be interested in designing a site specific production of the classic musical, Summer Holiday. It all started with a text message looking for a No.1 sound operator and from there came the sound design for this ambitious production beginning in Bolton’s all new Bus Interchange. Involving the audience travelling on double decker Bolton buses, the journey continues where the audience and "the boys" come across a pop group the "Doe Ray Me's" stranded in Paris trying to get their mini cooper to start. After we all alight our buses and help them out, it’s round to the octagon where the party continues. Not only was this the first production for me at the Octagon but also the first site specific piece of this scale I'd worked on. I knew designing sound systems for four different locations (including several buses) along with recording all of our fabulous actor musician cast for the outside locations, was going to keep me busy. Once Richard and I had developed a list of all musical sections, cast and instruments we needed for the various sites, we began with the recording sessions. This was a super fun day with all the cast, going through number by number recording everything in a multi track format so we could play back each instrument into the mixing consoles of all venues, so that they could still be mixed live. I wanted to keep a really live feel to the numbers so that once the audience got into the main space we retained the same great sound but all live.
With The Octagon set out in a thrust format, the challenge with a rock and roll musical was always going to be delivering that guitar driven music, whilst hearing every line over the drums, saxophones and electric guitars. It's been a constant dialogue with our wonderful cast, and musical director over the content of the vast array of monitor speakers, to ensure we retain control of the shows sound in the more striped back sections. I think we have achieved a show that really rocks in places yet has some beautiful intimate moments where the natural dialogue and imaging works a treat.
From speakers in clapped out Mini coopers, double decker buses, to control one's under the audiences seats, the whole process has been great. There’s not much I don't know about battery powered wireless speakers now. A big thanks goes to Richard Reeday for inviting me over, the directing team of Elisabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti for all their help and support, James Lawford for all his advise with MiPro battery powered units on the buses and of course to my operating team of Rob Parkinson and Chris Theobald.
I’ve left a link to some reviews below, but you have until June 23rd to get yourself to Sunny Bolton (no, really its been lovely) to see this cracking night out.
The Guardian: ****
The Stage ****