Shrewsbury School

Sound designer for 'War Horse' and 'Coriolanus' gives a masterclass in the Ashton Theatre

Tuesday 28 January 2014

William Allott (Ch LVI), whose technical expertise has enhanced a huge range of drama and music productions at the School over the last three years and is currently studying Theatre Studies at AS Level, describes an inspiring masterclass with professional sound designer Emma Laxton.

Emma Laxton

On Thursday 23rd January Emma Laxton, a freelance professional sound designer, visited the School's Ashton Theatre to give a masterclass in theatre sound design. Emma Laxton has worked extensively throughout the industry, starting at the Music Hall in Shrewsbury. She is the associate sound designer for War Horse in London, and has done a lot of work at the Donmar Warehouse, as well as creating the soundscapes for many pioneering productions – such as the Donmar’s current production of Coriolanus.

The afternoon focused mainly on software for playing theatre sound and video effects such as QLab and Adobe Audition. Emma explained the necessity of having a ‘clean canvas’ to start with - ensuring the necessity of blocking out all other ambient sounds in a venue (air-conditioning, fans from equipment and other hums etc.) From this blank start, she explained the process of working with directors, composers and lighting designers to create the sound design for a show. We learnt about various resources for acquiring sound effects from on-line resources, along with the value of creating  'live effects'. For example using bubble wrap on stage for a cracked neck as opposed to a sound effect!

Above all we should avoid anything that sounds too much like a sound effect. It was great to be able to ask questions relating directly to my AS Theatre Studies practical exam. I will be designing the sound and lighting for The Cherry Orchard. It presents many challenges, requiring a very naturalistic approach, so it was brilliant to ask specific questions. The School has two students doing technical Theatre Studies, but all drama students must have an understanding of the technical elements. Therefore this masterclass was a brilliant resource and a fascinating insight into the working life of a leading professional. I very much look forward to similar opportunities.

William Allott (Ch LVI)

back to top