My first professional sound design job came while I was still studying for my postgraduate diploma at RADA in 2014 – a co-design with John Leonard on King Lear at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone. John had asked RADA for a recommendation for sound students. Having met him during one of his teaching sessions, I snapped up the opportunity to transfer my skills into a real venue, as well as work with the man who has, literally, written the book: Theatre Sound by John Leonard.
I had to convince RADA staff I could juggle the production I was designing on the course with external work. While I pulled it off, I couldn’t maintain the juggling act without dropping a ball or two. It’s hard to train students in the organisational skills you need to balance jobs and make freelancing affordable. At the basis of that is communication – being honest when you’re asked for your availability and not procrastinating when it comes to breaking bad news. I was lucky to learn that while studying.
Before King Lear, I had sound-designed for a few RADA productions so while I knew the process and was confident in my technical skills, as a student it was exciting to be treated like an equal when meeting the director, Lewis Reynolds, to discuss ideas. As a keen, aspiring designer I wanted to fill the play with sound effects, ambience and music but the production wasn’t overly technical, with a few lighting and sound cues where needed. It was an important moment in realising the power of being objective – identifying how sound is best used, whether in a featured or supporting way, and what a huge effect a play can have – whether that’s the cast, creatives or audience.
Sound designer credits include: Othello (Rose Playhouse, London; Theatrelab, New York), For King and Country (Southwark Playhouse, London), Adding Machine: A Musical (Finborough Theatre, London), The Burnt Park Boys (Park Theatre, London)
Co-design/associate credits: Eden (Hampstead Theatre), The Other Place (Theatre By The Lake, Keswick), Duet for One (Oxford Playhouse; UK tour), How to Date a Feminist (Arcola Theatre, London), Pig Farm (St James, London), King Lear (Cockpit Theatre, London)
Philip Matejtschuk will be designing The Prince and the Pauper at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury. It runs from November 14 to January 4. He was talking to John Byrne