Robins Audio skilful design supplements in-house L-Acoustics system with X Series stage monitoring
LONDON, United Kingdom – This October, the London Palladium staged two socially distanced performances, of Jason Roberts Brown’s Songs For A New World, the first musical to grace a West End stage since the theatre closed in March. The performance was painstakingly staged to allow performers to stay socially distant, while audience management also ensured safety. The audio was reinforced with a combination of the venue’s in-house L-Acoustics audio system, installed in 2016 by SSE Audio, and a supplemental monitoring package designed by Robins Audio, with their inventory of the L-Acoustics X Series.
Jonny Dickie, head of live music and concert touring events at Hampshire-based Robins Audio has worked closely with Lambert Jackson Production since 2018. “Jonny introduced us to Lambert Jackson, and towards the end of 2019 we provided sound design and hire for their production of Doctor Zhivago at Cadogan Hall, and live stream events from the Phoenix Arts Club throughout lockdown,” explains Robins Audio Managing Director, Joshua Robins. “They’re a great team to work with. We are very lucky to have such a close relationship with them and to accompany them on such a forward-thinking production.”
Robins Audio supplied all of the sound equipment for the show, as well as a camera relay system, with Robins and Dickie sharing the role of sound designer, working hand-in-hand throughout the process to ensure the design would meet the producer’s expectation, and the director’s vision. Dickie also operated the show on the day and handled the production management for Lambert Jackson.
The L-Acoustics house system comprises a combination of L-Acoustics Kara for the main hangs (two hangs per side, upper and lower), X8 delays for the Royal and Upper Circles and Stalls, with each private box having its own 5XT. KS28 subs are flown centrally, with additional ground-stacked KS28 on the stage. Frontfill is catered for with 5XT and X8 provide outfill.
Tying neatly in, Robins Audio positioned L-Acoustics X12 and X8 for band monitoring on stage to deliver a clean sound that was coherent with that of the front-of-house system. Six X12 were run across the front of the stage for the cast, with X12 also providing monitoring for the MD and drums. Additionally, ten X8 were deployed for the band - keys one and two, cello, bass, percussion, and bass - along with two upstage and two downstage fills.
“Songs for a New World is unique,” Robins continues. “Half the time it’s staged like a concert, so the cast spends half their time on headsets and half their time on handhelds. It was a challenge to keep the sound fairly uniform throughout the show, while also retaining a good level of gain before feedback, which was rather difficult when using the headsets on an already loud stage. This was something the X12 in particular really helped with; they gave us really high monitoring levels without any issues, and we were able to retain clarity and speech intelligibility through the monitors with very little EQ treatment.”
Robins notes the short timeframe to get the show up and running, with only a couple of hours on Saturday to ensure the band and cast were sound-checked and every scene was programmed. Integrating into the in-house system made their lives easier on the install, and made budgets manageable, a particularly important issue for producers right now when audience size is limited due to health concerns.
“While utilizing an already installed system at a venue can be more limiting creatively, the system installed in the Palladium is very well designed and well-tuned, which made our lives a lot easier within our short tech time,” Robins adds. “We also had a system technician supplied by SSE for the entire weekend, who was extremely helpful.”
Working on an event of this scale was an amazing experience for the team “The feeling of watching a live gig with an audience is one that many of us had forgotten,” Robins concludes. “The atmosphere from the audience was absolutely phenomenal; I’ve never known anything like it. There was such an emotional response from a thousand people who have clearly been missing the magic of live theatre for far too long. For one of our shows, we experienced a four-minute standing ovation when the conductor walked on stage before the show and a seven-minute standing ovation at the end.
“Everyone involved should be commended: Jamie and Eliza from Lambert Jackson; Jonny and Rich as part of our team over the weekend; Ant, our system tech supplied by SSE; and all the staff at the London Palladium for making the process run smoothly during difficult times,” Robins concludes. “These are testing times for everyone in the theatre industry, and I really hope we can get back to some degree of normality in the near future. And if we are lucky enough to bring a longer-running show into the Palladium in the future, I will definitely utilize the in-house rig again.”
Songs For A New World will be moving to the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre for a five-week run in February. Robins Audio is currently designing a full L-Acoustics system for the show.