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Shure Supports Students Making Musical Theatre In UK During Pandemic

“Catch Me” and “The Limit” performed and recorded with support from Axient Digital wireless at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
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Socially distanced students performing at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo credit: Patrick Bladwin

Shure announces the support of students at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London who performed two new British musicals entitled “Catch Me” and “The Limit” for their end-of-year productions with the equipment required to support a socially distant performance.

Final year students at the school are required to perform what is usually a public musical to a live audience as part of their assessment. Due to the pandemic, their annual performance of “Merrily We Roll Along” had to be cancelled, leaving students without a project and no opportunity to showcase their work to industry connections.

However, Adam Lenson, Director and Course Leader, explains that the school made the decision to put on a socially distant performance that would be recorded live and streamed via YouTube.

“We were facing the issue that amateur productions of most canonical musicals (including ‘Merrily We Roll Along’) can’t be filmed due to copyright and there was be no point going to the work of putting these productions together if no one could ever see them,” Lenson explains. “So, I floated a mad idea. What if we did new UK musicals. Instead of one big show rehearsed in pieces what if we did four separate productions for each of the four groups of students. I suggested two productions of two new musicals. A five hander and a six hander. After going through lists of writers and musicals I landed upon two incredible new shows. ‘The Limit’ by Freya Smith and Jack Williams is a rock musical about the forgotten maths genius Sophie Germain and ‘Catch Me’ by Arnoud Breitbarth and Christian Czornyj is a beautiful meditation on grief and loss about a group processing the death of their friend.”

In order to keep the production costs the same as previous years, the two shows and four performances shared a common stage design and the same lighting rig. The logistics of having a socially distant performance meant a two-meter distance between performers at all times with no touch or sharing of any props. It also meant Sound Designer Luke Swaffield had to specify enough audio equipment to ensure everyone’s safety.

“Once you have figured out the logistics, it’s possible to run a show that is Covid secure,” Swaffield notes. “All of the actors were in bubbles and each of the shows were performed twice due to the number of students. To avoid cross contamination, everyone was allocated their own transmitter and had two microphones. The microphones were cleaned, sealed and stored in separate containers, labelled with names to ensure that no equipment was shared between shows.

“At Autograph,” he adds, “we’re big fans of Shure’s Axient Digital system and have used it on lots of other shows. The reliability and clean, digital sound is like nothing else on the market and we knew there was no other system for this job.”

All four shows were pre-recorded live on a multi-track mix so that the stems could be played back through the console to edit the mix. Student Raffaela Pancucci assisted Swaffield and others from Central’s theatre practice course in mixing the live shows. “Our end of year production may have been different to previous years, but it certainly brought new experiences,” says Pancucci. “This set up meant we were able to mix a show live for broadcast which is something none of us have had the opportunity to do before. It was a pleasure to work with the writers in the room and to have a recorded show which we can all reference to future employers.”

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View the performances via the following links:

The Limit, Saturday, November 7
Catch Me, Sunday, November 8
The Limit, Saturday, November 14
Catch Me, Sunday, November 15

Kit List:
3 Shure AD4Q four-channel digital wireless receivers
12 Shure ADX1M Micro bodypack transmitters
24 Shure SB910M Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
2 Shure SBRC battery pack chargers
1 Shure AD610 Diversity ShowLink access point
1 Shure AXT630 Axient antenna distribution system
2 Shure Axient radio antennas

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