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Award-winning sound designer and NIDA graduate doubles-up on shows at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Currently working as Sound Designer on two shows at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which runs from 4-28 August, NIDA graduate Nate Edmondson (Production, 2011) is a decorated sound designer and composer whose journey in theatre has taken him far and wide.

Image: NIDA graduate Nate Edmondson

Currently working as Sound Designer on two shows at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which runs from 4-28 August, NIDA graduate Nate Edmondson (Production, 2011) is a decorated sound designer and composer whose journey in theatre has taken him far and wide.

With the Edinburgh Fringe in full swing, Edmondson is handling sound on award-winning production, Enda Walsh’s Misterman, for which he picked up a Sydney Theatre Award for Best Score / Sound Design when the show ran in Sydney in 2015. He is also working on a 2016 production of new Australian work, Good With Maps, for which he picked up the same gong in that year’s Sydney Theatre Awards.

Misterman is a very complex show for sound design, utilising a series of hidden spot speakers to create the illusion of a series of working reel-to-reel tape machines around the stage, with which the actor interacts. Good With Maps is simpler for sound, with only a few effect cues, and the actor on a DPA mic that works extremely subtly to bolster her voice. But it has an enormous score, which sits in delicate balance with the voice and text throughout,’ said Edmondson.

Edmondson is also providing his expertise elsewhere during the festival.

‘I’m helping out with some of the other productions in our venue, optimising their sound designs and incorporating them into our expanded sound rig that we brought in, and upgrading some of the more basic designs from CDs and so forth, into QLab.’

This isn’t Edmonson’s first time in the UK. Far from it. Born in Australia, Edmondson continued with his passion for arts and entertainment when he was in his late teens during an 18-month stay in the UK.

‘I worked in events for a heritage steam railway in the Midlands, just outside of a little village called Cheddleton. It was my first venture into the arts and entertainment world of the UK,’ said Edmondson.

He went on to study Production at NIDA back in his native Australia, which helped launch his career as a Sound Designer. Later, after he had worked on the production All My Sons at the Eternity Playhouse for Darlinghurst Theatre, he received a request for his work from the UK.

‘A UK-based director reached out to me, having heard of my work on All My Sons. He was mounting his own production in Somerset, UK, and wanted to use my material.

‘I sent over the full QLab sequence from the show, complete with composition and sound design elements, and lots of notes on how to approach it. A local audio engineer for the company worked on it at their theatre, and it had a hugely successful season, earning me some nominations and an award from the Somerset Fellowship of Drama, in their Phoebe Rees Competition; I received the Brian Dyer Sound Trophy, for Best Score / Sound Design.’

Further success followed through the production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show in New York, which was a re-worked version of a production Edmondson had originally been part of road-testing in Australia at the 2015 Sydney Festival.

‘We went on to take the US version over to the UK, where we toured nationally for around eight months, including a couple of month-long residencies on the West End. That tour ended only very recently, and I’m sure we’ll be back!’ said Edmondson.

‘That was an interesting experience, as the touring models between the US, UK and Australia are all very different. But the fundamentals of sound design are universal, and it was relatively easy to transfer the show.’

As well as being a successful sound designer and composer, Edmonson lectures for the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) – Dramatic Arts, and mentors for both AIM and NIDA, teaching students about technical audio and sound design. He also consults or assists on other productions around Sydney, and holds strong beliefs for audio design in theatre.

‘I’m a huge believer in the importance of wedding the technical audio elements to the design. How speakers are EQ’d and the design mixed and shaped in a venue, is an oft-overlooked or under-cooked aspect of a great design. I work alongside a lot of composers as a sound designer, despite being a composer myself, because I have that understanding and ability to make music and sound sing in a theatre, even a home-spun, rough-around-the-edges setup.’

‘A lot of technical audio workers and engineers in this industry, globally, tend to misunderstand the needs of theatre. Things are so often geared towards music playback and live music performance and theatre operates very differently.’

‘We’ve also been experiencing a renaissance for theatre audio over the last ten years. The scale and demands of the role are rapidly expanding, and there is a real lack of understanding amongst producers and the ‘old guard’ of crew and creatives, as to how to handle and comprehend that. I think there needs to be a change of thinking when it comes to the theatre industry, and I think it will throw a lot of challenges at the technical audio world,’ he finished.

To learn more about NIDA’s BFA (Technical Theatre and Stage Management) course, visit the webpage.

NIDA BFA (Technical Theatre and Stage Management) third year student Julian Starr is currently on placement in the UK, and has been working on the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, read his story here.