“I was never kinder to the old man than in the week before I killed him…”
This weekend, Little Earthquake will be performing The Tell Tale Heart, a gothic story about murder. The show is performed by one actor who shares the stage with a sound artist, creating totally live effects and music, giving the audience a new theatre experience.
Little Earthquake’s co-director, Philip Holyman, tells us more about the how the live sound effects are created, how the actor and sound artist work together and which vegetable “provokes the strongest reaction in our audiences”.
“Many of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories feature characters whose sensory perceptions are heightened way beyond the range of most normal people — and in almost every case, these super-powers become the cause of the greatest terror and trauma imaginable.
The narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart — nameless in the original story, but in our production, a strapping private nurse named Simon — insists that he is suffering from a “disease” which has “sharpened [his] senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute.” And when we started to develop Little Earthquake’s stage version, that acute sense of hearing was the very thing we most wanted to explore.
Laurence Saunders, the actor playing Simon, shares the stage with Iain Armstrong, the sound artist who has created every sound effect that is heard during the show. As Simon recounts and relives his experiences, Iain’s character supplies the sounds which go with the actions being described and performed.
They both have a mammoth task before them at each performance, and it’s a journey they must go on together, like two climbers scaling Everest attached by a rope. Laurence’s virtually uninterrupted monologue is matched by Iain’s immense list of sound cues, well over 200 in total (within just 80 minutes of stage time). Ever since the show was made in Summer 2013, we have met for periodic re-rehearsals to tweak, to trim and to keep their complex ballet of text and sound and movement in good shape.
Wherever it is possible to produce the required sounds live, Iain does; some of them so subtly that audiences do not even realise Laurence is not producing them himself. Iain also has a wide range of manipulated sounds stored into his laptop, ready to be cued at the touch of a button. Sometimes a sound effect is produced by the exact object in question, such as the pop of toast being ejected or the glug of water being squeezed from a flannel. At other times, a lot of experimentation with the most random things was needed to find or build a sound which captured the perfect essence of an action being performed.
It gives nothing away to say any of this: the whole show has been designed so that Iain is fully visible throughout, surrounded by his horseshoe of tables brimming with mixing desks and microphones, and festooned with a variety of objects from the innocuous (a bell, a balloon, a bottle) to the outlandish (a large bone, a trio of sharp knives and four juicy oranges.)
Without fail, it is the four prominently placed sticks of celery which provoke the strongest reaction in our audiences. As the disclaimer warns, only fruit and vegetables come to harm during the performance. But in the words of a priceless piece of Twitter feedback, more than one spectator “can’t look in the salad drawer now…”.”
You can see Little Earthquake’s The Tell-Tale Heart on…..
Sunday, 30th November 2014, 7:30 PM at Crich Glebe Field Centre Ticket Prices: £10.00 Advance / £7.00 Ages 12-16 Advance / £12.00 On the Door / £8.50 Ages 12-16 On the Door / Box Office: 01773 853260