Sidney Millar

Sidney Millar on Wild's sound design

Sidney Millar takes us on a month-long journey through Wild’s sound design.

By Sarah Corridon

Sidney Millar takes us on a month-long journey through Wild’s sound design.

Pre-production and Week 1:

Graduating from VCA at the end of 2017, Sound Designer Sidney Millar’s bridge to professional theatre has been short and steep, requiring a lot of hard work along the way.

Commencing Week 1 of Wild rehearsals, Sidney discusses the approach she will take over her month-long rehearsal period at MTC HQ.

Having already met with the show’s director Dean Bryant multiple times to scope out his early vision for the play, Sidney is now at the stage where she can experiment with audio before taking it to the rehearsal room floor for the actors to perform alongside.

As part of MTC’s 2018 Women in Theatre Program, Sidney also discusses the historical lack of female sound designers working in professional theatre and the movement she feels she is a part of where women are assuming more recognition, responsibility and roles in professional theatre making.

Weeks 2 + 3:

Sidney tells us where the team is up to at the end of Week 2. We also learn about her location recordings (humming fridges, car engines, footsteps, traffic, people talking etc.), as well as her working process with director Dean Bryant and her excitement to share her sound design through speakers with the cast for the first time. Sidney also tells us about minor challenges encountered up to this point and the goal of creating a soundscape that mimics the effects of ASMR.

Approaching ‘tech week’ means ironing out final creases in the sound design process for Sidney. This includes adding and then taking away sound and composition in order to create a mood that is only possible through audio. Transferring the production’s sound from the rehearsal room to Southbank Theatre means there are bound to be some surprises and challenges that crop up along the way. At this stage of the rehearsal process, Sidney has identified which moments in the show call for the biggest emphasis on sound and how to use sound to punctuate key developments in the play’s narrative most powerfully.

Week 4 and the lead up to Opening Night:

Approaching Opening Night, Sidney reflects on the process of designing and composing sound for her first main stage production.

What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your design process for this show?

The biggest design challenge has definitely been finding the balance between intensity and comedy. In [protagonist] Andrew’s mind, everything is slightly on edge as he is psychologically broken down during the play, but from an audience perspective there are many funny moments to play on. From the initial read through of the script, the show seemed very serious, but as the rehearsal period went on, some quite humorous moments played out.

What is your favourite moment in the show’s sound and composition?

The very start of the show opens with a bassy impact tone that is played through each musical moment. This is something that many people may not realise, but the very end of the show plays that same tone, but in reverse. It’s a really neat way to bookend the show.

What’s your favourite memory from the rehearsal period of Wild?

I’ve loved watching how the actors used the room. All three are thrilling to watch and it was certainly entertaining to see how far they could use the few elements available in the hotel room.

What is the most unusual sound effect in this production?

Almost every sound effect in the show is a non-diagetic sound (sounds that the characters wouldn’t actually hear) that have been added in to punctuate certain lines or mood progressions. So my favourite sound definitely has to be the biggest ‘real’ (diagetic) sound in the show – a balloon pop! I spent quite some time in my studio blowing up balloons and letting them deflate, flying around the room and recording that sound.

What are you most looking forward to about opening night?

The audience reactions! There are so many exciting and unique elements in this show and I can’t wait to hear what people have to say about them!

It’s an important show in this day and age and the issues presented need to be shared. [Director] Dean [Bryant] explains it as starting a conversation, and we need the audience to continue the conversation further. It’s important to know the facts behind mass surveillance, security, social media, targeted advertising, and the way we interact with technology and who sees what we do.

Do you have any fun facts about the show’s sound you could share with us?

Fun facts for music nerds – the entire show is in D flat, sometimes major, sometimes minor, but mostly open. A lot of the sound effects are pitched, even subtly, to fit into the key. Even the choice of D flat as the key is to be slightly off what we hear most.

You can listen to some of Sidney’s sound design and composition for Wild here:

Wild plays at Southbank Theatre from 5 May.

Published on 8 May 2018

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