Five Minutes With…

Wills - senior sound and AV technician at Theatr Clwyd

Wills has worked at Theatr Clwyd for almost 29 years and oversees all things sound and AV (audio visual) for the theatre’s in-house productions. During his time at Theatr Clwyd he has designed the sound for over 90 productions and been sound operator for hundreds more.

What is your role at the theatre?

I oversee everything sound or AV related. This is incredibly varied and can be everything from working out costings, designing and building audio systems to physically engineering and operating sound for shows.

How did you get into sound engineering?

I started off on a full-time work placement at Theatr Clwyd back in 1992. After my placement was up, I continued to work evenings at the theatre whilst studying studio sound at college, thinking maybe music production would be my next step.

After dabbling in the music world for a while alongside theatre, I decided that my love for theatre was keeping me here.

How do you design the sound for a production?

It's a long process but starts with talking with the director about what style and vision they have for the production and reading the script.

I see sound design as a two-part process. There is the creative side of it where you make and compile sound effects/soundscapes/music and there is the technical side to it, where you have to design the system to be able to deliver it.

What’s the best part of the job?

The best part is seeing a project or production through from start to finish. From day one of reading the script, to the first night where the audience are applauding the work.

There is a huge amount of work involved in putting on a show, and many people involved. We are lucky here that we have a lot of very committed people at the top of their game, and I think that shows in the quality of productions we achieve.

What’s the weirdest sound effect you have ever had to source or make?

If you saw our production of Jack & The Beanstalk last year, you may remember there were an awful lot of different fart sound effects - they don't make themselves!!!! Oops, excuse me!

You have been at Theatr Clwyd for a long time, what have been your favourite productions?

It is so difficult trying to pick a favourite, as I've worked on hundreds of productions over the years, but a few stand-out ones would include my first Christmas show, back in 1992, a musical version of, A Christmas Carol with music written by the DJ Mike Read; Memory, which we took to London and New York; Rape of the Fair Country, which was an absolute epic; As You Like It, and maybe, Somewhere In England.

I could list so many more though, I almost feel guilty for leaving them out!

In terms of sound, has anything ever gone terribly wrong during a live performance?

More times than I care to imagine! Things going wrong can happen because of both technical failure, or human error, both of which can cause very embarrassing, but often very amusing results.

One of my most memorable was a show set in South Wales in the 1800s, the stage was dark, the scene was set in a cave and there was meant to be a huge water explosion, killing all of the characters.

Unfortunately, the wrong button was hit on the playback computer and instead of loud water explosions, we got chickens. Lots of very loud chickens.

The cast weren't particularly good at acting dead on this occasion, most were rolling around the floor laughing, as was the audience thankfully.

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