The cast and creative team of War Game, adapted from Michael Foreman’s novella that tells the story of the opening months of World War 1 through the eyes of a village football team, have been working hard in our rehearsal rooms at Bristol Old Vic for the past few weeks and we’ve been hearing some interesting noises seeping through the walls. We caught up with Musical Director and Composer Kieran Buckeridge to find out what the source is to these sounds.
Well, creating War Game has been a very organic process. We started with only a few basic ideas both musically and with sound design. As it’s a one-man show you have to populate the stage with sound to fill the world out. Robin, the actor, mostly plays one character but there are many other smaller characters he takes on. At one point he plays a whole football team! So I’ve used music and sound design to fill out these spaces with sound to bolster what Robin is doing, to continue the illusion.
There’s not that much original music actually. There’s a few themes from songs that people might already know like Pack Up Your Troubles With Your Old Kit Bag and It’s A Long Way to Tipperary. We’re also using the theme of Pachelbel’s Cannon in D which runs all the way through the play. This came about because The Farm who wrote All Together Now use Pachelbel’s Cannon in D and that song is about the football match in No Man’s Land which is the climax of War Game. It’s been fun taking this theme and manipulating it and making it into whatever we want.
We’re also using sound capturing technology to record the audience making certain sounds during the play. Sound artist Tim Atack gave us a workshop before we started rehearsing War Game to see what kind of things we could use. Playing with samplers and looping software has been great fun. It’s something that’s very new for me but we’ve really embraced it in War Game as a way of enhancing what’s happening on stage.
We’re being quite upfront about it. There’s no pretence that the audience aren’t there, they’re totally there, and they’re making half the sound effects with us! We might ask them to shout something or clap and we record it, then we then change these sounds and use them throughout the play. We might add reverb or by slow them right down so applause can become the sound of shelling, or rain. What’s great about using the audience in this way is that it’s fun for them to hear what they’ve made become part of the show. But it’s also quite moving when the sounds that they’ve made transform from a clap to an explosion and the sounds of war.
The exciting thing is it’s not Robin (the actor) we’re recording, it’s the audience. And we could have a different kind of audience each performance. It means you’re never quite sure what sound they’re going to create or how they’re going to react. We’re all going to have to kind of think on our feet and see what happens.