Image credit – Tristram Kenton
From 13 Oct – 5 Nov 2023, Factory International introduced the world debut of Free Your Mind, taking to the stage at Manchester’s newest multipurpose venue, Aviva Studios. The large-scale immersive, theatrical performance brought in inquisitive audiences looking to journey into The Matrix through a new age of theatre complete with street-style performers, contemporary dance, punchy music, and eye-opening stage design.
Brought to fruition by an impressive team of creative forces including Director, Danny Boyle; Choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy; Designer, Es Devlin; Composer, Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante; and Sound Designer, Gareth Fry – the thought-provoking production integrated innovative technical solutions to bring the artistic vision to life.
Free Your Mind was separated into two acts. With the first act taking place in a traditional theatre style space, the audience could be forgiven for thinking this was going to be a traditional show! Act two saw the intensity of the performance and the technology amplified and was set in a unique staging area with audience facing each other across the catwalk-style stage. With a 20.5m high ceiling and fully white wall wrapping around the audience, the audio canvas was complete and now it was time to start creating.
It was soon identified that an unusual audio solution was required to effectively fill the large space. To achieve this, a few different technical sound systems were used simultaneously, with Gareth seeking out Creative Technology’s support in installing HOLOPLOT to create a fully immersive audio experience by manipulating the audio in more controlled and specific ways.
Interestingly, this was not Gareth’s first time using HOLOPLOT – having previously worked with the system at Lightroom London. Following this deployment and having spent time experimenting with the capabilities of the technology, Free Your Mind presented an exciting opportunity to push the features of HOLOPLOT even further within a fast-paced, dynamic performance-based environment. Realising the innovative possibilities of the system, Gareth, and some of the Free Your Mind creative team attended a demo of HOLOPLOT to further explore the options it presented for this new project.
One of the ways in which HOLOPLOT enhanced the audio experience throughout act two of Free Your Mind was by completely enveloping the space, giving focus to specific sounds and voices throughout the piece to highlight important messaging and support the emotive display being portrayed by the dancers.
Creating an intimate sound delivery within the space of over 2000m2 presented a challenge. It was important for Gareth to conform to the minimalistic aesthetics of the stage design, whilst also achieving a focused and all-encompassing audio experience. HOLOPLOT was the only solution capable of this, with four 4 x 6 arrays hung either side of the 32.7m wide room – allowing sound to be specifically directed to the audience without visually obstructing the set.
Creative Technology’s Head of Audio, Mark Boden commented, “It has been such a privilege to work with Gareth Fry for the second time on this ground-breaking production. As the first Rental Partner in the UK for HOLOPLOT, it is exciting to see this innovative technology in sound taken to new levels and experienced by new and growing audiences. We are looking forward to working with Gareth again in the future on the next project.”