Nominees include Max and Ben Ringham for the National Theatre’s Anna, the team behind Sheffield Theatres’ Life of Pi and the Young Vic team for Death of a Salesman scratch shows
The Achievement in Technical Theatre Award recognises individuals or teams that have excelled within their fields in the past 12 months. This excellence can have been demonstrated within any aspect of technical theatre. Individuals or teams working for any theatre company or organisation in the sector are eligible. Judges will be looking for evidence of how the individual or team has contributed to the success (artistic or otherwise) of a production or theatre organisation. New products are not eligible. The award is specifically for achievements in the past 12 months, it is not a lifetime achievement award.
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In May, National Theatre audiences were thrilled by Anna, a Cold War drama that played out in a glass box on the Dorfman stage. Sound designers Max and Ben Ringham worked with playwright Ella Hickson, director Natalie Abrahami and set designer Vicki Mortimer and the rest of the team to create an astonishing production, with sound at its heart.
The story centred on Anna – hosting a party in her East Berlin flat – who is wearing a wire, with the audience listening in through headphones. The action played out in the soundproof glass box, with the audience only hearing what Anna could hear.
The Stage’s review hailed the direction and the Ringham brothers’ superb sound design, adding: “The staging may look effortlessly naturalistic, with guests milling about aimlessly, but this is as tightly choreographed as a ballet.”
The aim, according to the brothers, was to have the actors connect with the audience through sound. “As a creative team, we used sound as a tool to convey the oppressive world of East Berlin in 1968.”
The pair employed binaural sound – what Ben Ringham described as “three-dimensional audio” that can only be heard through headphones – with the audio mixed live for each show.
Max Ringham said: “We wanted to use this technology to see how well we could deliver a narrative with it.” They, and the whole team that worked on the production, certainly delivered.
Some questioned how Yann Martel’s bestselling book of a boy stranded on a boat with a Bengal tiger in the middle of the Pacific ocean could be effectively adapted for the stage. But Sheffield Theatres pulled it off superbly, with this production – directed by Max Webster – leaving audiences breathless.
Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation was brilliantly complemented by Tim Hatley’s set design, Tim Lutkin’s lighting, Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes’ puppets – “works of art” according to The Stage’s review – and the sublime video work by Andrzej Goulding.
“The production is so full of magical moments that awe becomes the audience’s default response. A lifeboat rises up, with Goulding’s video projections of waves lapping across the stage, and, most jaw-droppingly of all, the sight of Pi jumping into the ‘ocean’, disappearing from view, and resurfacing on the other side of the boat,” said The Stage. The Observer said: “The technical virtuosity of the team realising Pi’s adventures is dazzling.”
For his state-of-the-art projections, Goulding part rendered and part filmed the water that allowed the audience to feel they were floating along with Pi and the tiger. The centrepiece was the 44-pound tiger puppet operated by three puppeteers, which had reviewers purring that it was a worthy successor to War Horse. No small compliment.
The thrillingly realised show comes to the West End in June.
On November 6, part of the Piccadilly Theatre’s ceiling fell down during a performance of Death of a Salesman, which had recently transferred from the Young Vic. As anxious ticket holders waited to learn what would happen to the following days’ shows, the producers had an idea.
Less than 24 hours after the collapse, the Young Vic production team had built a 460-seat auditorium to stage three scratch performances of the show at its home in Southwark.
Coming shortly after the end of the run of its previous show Blood Wedding, the Young Vic’s main house was a construction site, having been gutted. There was no flooring or seating, no rig and no stage.
A day later a new floor had been laid and carpeted, a raked seating bank had been installed, a stage built, a lighting rig hung, and the dressing rooms – which were being used as storage – had been readied for the weekend performances.
Decor was sourced, and props and costumes were transported from the Piccadilly. Sound desks were run in and the instruments brought over from the theatre and miked up. The actors and operators arrived at 4pm for a ‘cue to cue’ tech and by 7.30pm the audience had packed the auditorium and the play began. The shows were met with standing ovations.
It was an extraordinary achievement by the Young Vic’s production team. Artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah and executive director Despina Tsatsas described it as “nothing short of miraculous”.