Feeling lucky to be alive! I'm approaching the end of my second week of many in Stratford-upon-Avon working as composer in residence for the RSC. It’s a placement that lasts 6/7 months and made possible through a partnership between the RSC and the Cameron Mackintosh resident composer scheme. I’ll be contributing to this blog during my time here to share some of this experience, the challenges, the inspirations and the ‘golden moments’.

It has begun in the spring and I felt ‘blooming fresh’ this morning as I walked to work, a far cry from my hectic north London abode. Although I’m right at the beginning of this RSC adventure it’s palpable how special this creative bubble is here and I know I’ve got a unique opportunity to have the space to focus on my composing and make a meaningful contribution to the projects I’ll be involved with.

The RST Tower from Chapel Lane, surrounded by buildings
Walking to work in Stratford-upon-Avon
Photo by Sarah Llewellyn © The artist Browse and license our images

I’ve felt so welcome here, particularly by the RSC’s head of music Bruce O’Neil, he has shown me all over the venues and rehearsal spaces, is helping set up recordings with some fantastic musicians and has made sure I’ve the space and resources to write.

I’m currently in rehearsals for Myth a new play by Kirsty Housley and Matt Hartley, which is one of two productions I’m writing for as part of the Mischief Festival at the RSC’s The Other Place. The other show is The Earthworks by Tom-Morton Smith, directed by Erica Whyman - rehearsals begin Monday! Both productions open in May and have an extremely talented cast, creative and production crew on board... as I said... ‘lucky to be alive’.

After reading and absorbing the script and meeting with the directors and listening to their aspirations/ visions for the piece, I often start my process with a kind of R and D stage, exploring, searching and listening to a wide variety of music. I then compile various references and soundscapes, fire this material over to the director and see what resonates. Once I have a sense of what ‘clicks’ I do the same thing again!

It’s good to roughly find the sound colours, tempos, moods, rhythms which connect and then I’ve a springboard to start writing from.

The first week we combined movement work in rehearsal with music and I’ve played with some of the gathered references during these sessions. That gave me more insight as to what musical textures and characters work and support the actors/atmospheres of the scenes and pace of transitions. Last weekend and all this week I've been getting the 'dots' down and there is already plenty of them! I've worked in various spaces, my home studio, the band room at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and in the lovely rehearsal space at The Other Place. Enthused, full of ideas and energy. Don't miss the work at the Mischief Festival and I'll strive to write a another post soon. Thanks for reading. 

Sarah Llewellyn

Sarah Llewellyn

Sarah Llewellyn is a composer, sound designer and music director who writes for theatre, film and circus throughout the UK and internationally. She is currently the RSC’s composer in residence, from April to October 2017. Throughout this time Sarah will share her experiences, challenges and inspirations.

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