MSL has provided a Renkus-Heinz CE3 touring system for the Gentlemen's travels, adding the new Series FOUR console, supplied by Marquee Audio, to the production rig when it arrived in the West End. The hugely popular production is already planning another nationwide tour.
Working with MSL is sound designer Oliver Gross, who mixes the show, together with second engineer Dan Sepke. Both of them are graduates of LIPA, although Oliver began his engineering career in his native Austria. "I've tried to make the production sound as natural as possible whilst ensuring that everyone in the audience can understand all the jokes. However, the audience is much more noisier than a typical musical theatre audience, for example. Some people come in with two pints of lager before the show starts, others get up in the middle of sketches and go to the bar. Also, there is a huge dynamic range in the material, from whispering to shouting - sometimes over music playbacks."
The show is loud, delivered at levels more commonly found in touring rock 'n' roll than in genteel theatreland. And it is also full of action; Oliver has 53 cues, which are all manually triggered from his 3 CD players, one of which is routed to the effects speakers on stage.
"My approach to realistic sound was to delay the PA into the stage as well as putting some FX speakers on the stage. The high S/N ratio on the desk is sufficient to handle the high dynamic range I mentioned, crosstalk is not an issue whatsoever, and the filters are very useful. For example, I routed all the lavaliers to a group output, through a parametric and a third-band EQ (DN 410 and DN 27A) in order to tackle the feedback, and then into one of the desk channels so I can use the desk EQ to shape the overall sound of the voices."
The 3 performers in the show are all wearing Sanken lavalier mics. "A general strength of Soundcraft consoles is their highly ergonomic surface. Channel strips are easy to read and well colour coded. The fader area, including input meters and VCA routing, is designed in a very sensible way. The routing buttons don't pop out too much, so that I never pressed a button accidently. And this is remarkable, because I never use mutes in the show when actors leave the stage - I control all seven radio mic inputs (3 primary, 4 backup/extras) entirely on faders.
"The Series FOUR is a very flexible desk," he comments. "Being able to route the aux sends and sub groups into the matrix gives me a lot of outputs, an impressive number for a relatively compact console. The flexible routing capabilities enable me to have immediate access to all outputs during a very short get-in (one day) and so I don't have to make any compromises. And I even had a couple of spare outputs to supply separate mixes to the broadcasting van when we produced a video of the show."
This is the second new Soundcraft console for Midland Sound & Light, which purchased a Series FIVE Monitor console for Jools Holland less than six months ago. "Soundcraft represents far better value for money than many other high-profile boards," says Andy Salmon of MSL, "and that appeals to the businessmen among us!"