You are the Bristol Old Vic composer in residence, what does that entail?
Well, it all started outside of Bristol with the Music Theatre Network. Three theatres said they’d quite like a composer in residence, so they shortlisted all sorts of people and then a selection were given to Soho, Bristol Old Vic and the Watermill at Newbury.
It really is a six month period of continued conversation with Bristol Old Vic that allows me to get involved with anything I can. Wodwo is the first project that I’ve really worked on in the building. This also enables me to work on my own projects – so the freedom to do that is really valuable.
How have you found working with the Young Company?
It’s been great, I love it! When does a musician ever get the chance to work with 30 people in a room in professional theatre? You never do, it would cost far too much. So to work with the Young Company is brilliant.
It’s like constant creative explosions! After those moments, it’s just about how you harness that. I take a lot of creative input from them – it’s just a case of taking their idea and expanding it or forming it in a different way.
The music of Wodwo is very eclectic; can you tell us what we can expect?
I started thinking about organic sounds, which have been effected with electronic sounds. I took real forest sounds – wind and water – but they’ve all had things done to them to make them seem quite other-wordly. The music mirrors what the play is, a kind of forest that gets distorted and fractured and becomes a very strange environment.
I played with scoring important moments, a bit like a film really. There’s also vocal work from the company which I’ve coupled with these instrumental sections. At an hour, Wodwo is not a long play but it’s almost entirely scored.
I’m looking forward to the moment when everything gets put together. What’s good about using sound in theatre, and having a composer or musician in the rehearsal room all the time, is often a company will create a play and someone comes in during the last week and says “…and here’s the music you’ll be acting to”. The actors have done all this work and suddenly the addition of music presents them with something they weren’t expecting, or changes the atmosphere of the piece. What’s been good about me being in the room with Wodwo is we can make it all at once. The scenes and the sound happen at the same time.
What’s great, for me and for the actors, is to have music and sound instantly in the room. Music augments whatever is happening, whether it’s physical or speech. For me, that’s what sound in theatre should do; it should double what’s happening on stage.
What kind of things are you listening to at the moment? What has inspired the score?
Well, what I usually do is take three different styles or composers and I put them on a triangle on a piece of paper. I suppose I’ve done that a little bit with Wodwo. I’d put Philip Glass and a great French film composer Alexandre Desplat on my triangle for this I think. Alexandre Desplat would absolutely be a key influence, I love his music. He’s a fantastic film composer. I love film music. Those composers are like the Beethovens and Schumanns of our time because you don’t get much orchestral classical music written now.
Next, I take my triangle, and think, whatever I write, can this fit within my triangle? That’s a way of doing it and a way of making a show’s sound work together.
What has been your favourite moment working on Wodwo…or is that yet to come?
Learning all the new rules to Zip Zap Boing! There are so many more rules than I remember!
I think seeing what the actors come up with all the time, particularly when they’re creating text. Some of the text they have written, using the poem as inspiration, is really great and really beautiful writing. I love hearing that, and seeing what these young people can come up with.