Golem – Trafalgar Studios (Created by 1927)
Arriving at Trafalgar Studios on a sunny Thursday afternoon, I was greeted by the bright yellow colour schemes on signs and billboards surroundingthe entrance. Once settled in Studio One I was greeted by the sounds of dissonant bell sounds, chiming through their rising, slow sequence, building a tension that was never resolved. Amidst a backdrop of slightly unsettling artwork on a loop with the word “Progressive” standing out around sketches of people and Full Colour TV sets.
The lights go down and the show starts with a pianist and a drummer playing in red cloaks and red hats, to a slow rhythm as the scene is set and Annie tells us about her life. The music, and the piano in particular, draws us into a false sense of security as we listen to the narrative unravelling. A sudden revelation sees the music jerk us straight into a Punk bands rehearsal with the front lady Annie screaming at us the bands name “ANNIE AND THE UNDERDOGS!” They describe themselves as a punk political band, with outfits knitted by (Annie and Roberts) Gran. The change in musical pace is a welcome listening experience after we’ve listened to how Gran’s partner very much liked Jazz although she herself was more impartial to Beethoven. Annie and the Underdogs have a distinctive B-52 sound underpinning their political punk vibes!
There were some points during the production that the drums overpowered the piano, but other than that the live music featured was neatly assembled with the exclusive features of “keytar” solos and the ironic cowbell, drawing focus.
The pianist and composer Lillian Henley does a splendid job of creating dark piano melodies that signify the uncomfortable use of the Golems and the impending “progressive” lives that our characters are buying into. At points the music energises us when the faster tempo picks up but always succeeds in drawing us back into the slight discomfort as the plot unravels.
Will Close writes and performs the percussion in Golem and they work fantastically with the music and indeed the pace of the animations. They particularly stand out when the character Robert is walking through the dingy streets past the various shops selling technology and the animations start to shake and change directions the percussion keeps it moving along and echoes the visuals beautifully.
Sound Designer, Laurence Owen, also contributes as the Golem becomes more integral to the story. The robotic sounds of the future come through to display the changing world and the characters moving with the time rather than “getting left behind”. As Golem gets upgraded and ultimately gains more control over characters more synthetic sounds are used to represent this appropriately. The electronic sounds signify the corporation behind the faceless buyers of “Syndicate’s Genuine Golems”. As the production reaches the height of the new age, the synths are downsampled to some 8 bit sounds and synths characteristic of a Kraftwerk track, that really kick off the age of technology. Although the sound design doesn’t particularly push any boundaries, it appropriately reflects the use of computer-generated sounds to echo the technology taking over the characters lives.
It’s hard to think of the amount of time that has been put into coordinating the actors, the animations, voice-overs, the sound effects and the live music. They all work very tightly together and as a viewer it’s easy to get lost in the world they create and forget how closely everything is working together. Talking about how great the audio is wouldn’t be possible if every element of the show didn’t work so well together, the art style is reflected particularly in the piano parts and the sound design but really the entire production is fantastic. It’s difficult to pull the audio out of the theatre because it’s such a big part of the show, any element would not be the same without the others. The audio just leaves each viewer with that slightly unsettling feeling mirrored in the art styles and the narrative and Golem is a very thought-provoking and artistic production that comes highly recommended from an audio perspective as well as a great all round experience. You simply can’t walk out of Trafalgar Studios without pondering life a little!
Will Close (Drums/Percussion)
Lillian Henley (Composer/Pianist)
Laurence Owen (Sound Design)
Article by Alyx Jones
Edited by Sam Hughes
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