With the partnership between the National Theatre and Meyer Sound, the room now starts out sounding as good as I’ve ever heard it — which means our team gets to focus on fine-tuning the deeply creative elements and specially created sound effects that really bring the show to life for an audience.”
Simon BakerSound Designer, HEX
Tony Award-winning sound designer Simon Baker creates a magical sonic landscape for HEX, bringing to life this vividly original retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale directed by Rufus Norris at London’s National Theatre. The National Theatre and Meyer Sound began a unique sonic partnership in 2019, one that continues to evolve and grow, providing creative teams with the very best resources to deliver exceptional audience experiences.
“As a creative sound designer, you’re very much part of the storytelling,” said Simon Baker. “And with a new musical, you’re working very collaboratively with the rest of the creative team to figure out the tonal world of the story, the sonic landscape where the characters live. The Olivier Theatre’s classic sort of amphitheater shape only adds to the complexities inherent in bringing a new musical to life. With the partnership between the National Theatre and Meyer Sound, the room now starts out sounding as good as I’ve ever heard it — which means our team gets to focus on fine-tuning the deeply creative elements and specially created sound effects that really bring the show to life for an audience.
“Every production in the Olivier is an opportunity to learn from and explore ways to improve the experience of our creative teams and audience members at the National Theatre – it’s a constant evolution in an incredibly challenging room, where the work is never quite over,” said Deputy Head of Sound and Video Alex Caplen. “Since the initial system installation, we have been fortunate to collaborate with Meyer Sound and work additional speakers into the system – most recently expanding our fills with ULTRA‑X20 and additional UP‑4slim models. These newer boxes sonically blend effortlessly with the core LEOPARD/LINA system and share the same trademark linear response that Meyer Sound is renowned for.”
In order to ground the show with a sense of realistic tension especially needed in the more frightening elements of the fairytale alongside complementing the score, a powerful and cohesive approach was required for the low-end delivery of the system. The design team, in collaboration with the NT Sound & Video team, elected to fly two 900‑LFC atop the LEOPARD clusters on either side and two 750‑LFC on either side of the central LINA array. Two additional 1100‑LFC were added to augment the existing two 900-LFC on the floor, extending the frequency response of the system even lower. “These changes mean the audience can really feel the low end as well as hear it allowing them to fully immerse in the show,” said Caplen.
The Olivier’s Meyer Sound system is anchored by left and right arrays of eight LEOPARD line array loudspeakers plus a split center array comprised of three LEOPARD loudspeakers for the longer throw and six LINA line array loudspeakers for closer orchestra seating. Twelve UP-4slim loudspeakers offer great front fill coverage for the first few rows and 25 additional fill, sub-bass, and delay loudspeakers located throughout the theater complete the system. Additional stage effects and foldback are supported by eight ULTRA‑X40 loudspeakers.
Simon’s extensive knowledge of Meyer Sound systems goes back nearly 30 years, through his longtime association with leading British sound design and rental company Autograph. “For me, Meyer Sound has always been sort of a benchmark of excellence by which everything else was measured against. I started my career hanging UPA loudspeakers and it’s been such a pleasure to see the company continue to set the industry standard for excellence in technology. I think it’s terrific for both artists and audiences that the National Theatre now has such a stellar Meyer Sound house system. Alongside a busy freelance sound design career, Simon serves as Technical Director of Emma Rice’s Wise Children and has previously worked with the Old Vic, RSC, and KneeHigh.
HEX is directed by Rufus Norris with book by Tanya Ronder, music by Jim Fortune, and lyrics by Rufus Norris. Original concept by Katrina Lindsay and Rufus Norris. Set and Costume designs by Katrina Lindsay, choreography by Jade Hackett, and sound design by Simon Baker. The show runs through January 14 at London’s National Theatre.