Grid Iron theatre company are currently presenting their latest show Leaving Planet Earth as part of the Edinburgh International Festival and as the production’s audio suppliers we were among the lucky few invited to the dress rehearsal. Whilst the show draws on Grid Iron’s extensive experience in site-specific theatre it ratchets the experience up a couple of notches with a masterclass in audience management that manoeuvres three groups of 50 people through an engrossing experience that begins at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and plays out in the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena near Ratho. The journey between the two immerses the audience into a reality that bridges the gap between two worlds, so that by the time we arrived at the EICA we had already bought into the concept that we had jumped from Old Earth to New Earth.
The direction and acting were excellent, and will no doubt be covered in detail elsewhere. More surprisingly, the EICA itself was one of the stars of the show. With some creative sound and light the venue became a credible near-future institution, with glimpses of the exterior reading as a terra-formed landscape, and the choreographed movement of the audience through the central atrium space creating the illusion of a densely-populated residential centre. Philip Pinski‘s score and sound design ran through the whole piece, moving seamlessly between filmic underscoring and corporate muzak, or cueing theatrical devices that moved the action backwards and forwards through time.
DM Audio supplied d&b loudspeaker systems throughout the building, with d&b C6 & C4-SUB or Q-SUB subwoofers used in the smaller spaces, where vignettes played out to 50 people at a time – each group piecing the narrative together from a different chronological perspective. As we passed through the central atrium the space throbbed with atmospheric sound, distributed through 12 d&b E3s and a B2 infrabass spread over four stories to achieve a combination of intelligibility and omnipresence. The climactic scene in the climbing arena itself was accompanied by a track that harked back to Philip Pinski’s days in 90’s dance music exponents Finitribe, and which sounded near-apocalyptic through our d&b C7 / B2 rig.
Special mention has to be made of the technical team, led by production manager Fi Fraser and technical manager Simon Hayes. Although we attended the first dress rehearsal, which was also the first time that the piece had been performed as a whole, the technical production appeared to be faultless – quite a feat given the complexity of the production.