National Theatre’s “Transcendent” Follies

FKT Magazin 3/2018

Closing in January following an extended run, a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at London’s National Theatre was showered with lavish praise by critics. To ensure dialogue and music were carried to the audience with pristine clarity and undiminished impact, the production relied on a Meyer Sound main reinforcement system – anchored by Lina and Leopard line array loudspeakers – supplied by Autograph of London.

Tasked with balancing subtle transitions between the dramatic and musical elements in Follies was distinguished sound designer Paul Groothuis, who has credits on more than 120 productions at the National Theatre alone. Assisting in system design and specification was his associate, Alex Caplen, who also serves as sound & video supervisor for the 1100-seat Olivier Theatre, the specific stage (the National Theatre has three) hosting the production.

Rounding out the main proscenium system were six 900-LFC low frequency control units, four UPJ-1P loudspeakers and twelve MM-4 loudspeakers as fills, plus four legacy MSL-2s for boosting the orchestra. The permanently installed fill and surround systems utilize additional loudspeakers from other manufacturers.

Also contributing to the sound success of Follies were the full audio staff of the National Theatre under the direction of Head of Sound & Video, Dominic Bilkey, and in particular the Sound No.1 for the show, Jonas Roebuck.

Other key audio gear used for Follies included a DiGiCo SD7T mixing console with EX-007 fader extension, Sennheiser wireless microphone systems, and a mixed complement of Sennheiser and DPA microphones.

The Follies production was directed by Dominic Cooke and was broadcast live to cinemas worldwide as part of the NT Live program. For the middle part of the run, Follies shared the Olivier Theatre stage in repertory with the play St. George and the Dragon, Sound Designed by Chris Shutt. The same proscenium and vocal systems were used for both productions, except the MSL-2 loudspeakers which were removed for the play.

The largest of National Theatre’s three stages, the Olivier Theatre is modelled on the ancient Greek theatre at Epidaurus. It is named after the National Theatre’s first artistic director, legendary actor Laurence Olivier.

In 2016-2017, the National Theatre (NT) staged 26 productions and gave 2,585 performances at the London South Bank venues. The NT’s award-winning programme had a UK paying audience of 1.8 million, 400,000 of which were NT Live audiences. 

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