How do you sound design an immersive Doctor Who show?
Doctor Who has plenty of iconic sounds, from sonic buzz to the TARDIS Vworp! How do you bring them to London's West End?
Time Fracture have a huge number of team members, in front of and behind the TARDIS. The person behind the sounds of the Doctor Who universe on stage is Luke Swaffield. Read a full interview with the sound designer below.
Tell us about your background working in the theatre industry.
I am a Theatre sound designer. I trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and have been working in the industry for about 14 years. I have worked full-time at Autograph Sound for 12 years. In my career I’ve been fortunate enough to be attached to many plays and musicals; in London, on tour and around the world both as a designer and associate. My passion however is working on large-scale site specific pieces and I specialise in providing sound design and show control to immersive and non-linear performances.
I was brought to Doctor Who: Time Fracture because I’ve been fortunate enough to be a long-term collaborator with Tom Maller (director). I have always wanted to design a sci-fi show because of the huge creative opportunities it opens up when compared to more naturalistic locations so when he approached me about the show I literally bit his hand off.
What would a typical day in your role on Doctor Who: Time Fracture look like?
BUSY! I arrive first thing and leave last thing at night; a typical day is running all over the building creating soundscapes and effects to suit all the different locations and performance moments in the show. It’s unlikely you will see me not buried in a laptop or deep in conversation with another member of the creative team however if I’m not I’m probably working with the most important member of my team, “New Ian”, our touring coffee machine.
Since beginning work on Time Fracture, what has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been working out the performance flow of the multiple groups. Ensuring each group receives the right audio in the right place at the right time and that it can be recreated reliably every night. 6 days a week has been a real challenge, a fun one though!
Do you have any favourite moments in the show - that are particular relevant to your work on Time Fracture?
I can’t talk too much about my favourite moments without giving too much away! The finale has been my Everest and is without doubt a real special moment for the audience but my favourite moment has got to be the climax of “act one”. I can’t wait to see how the audience react to it.
Where do you take creative inspiration for your work?
Anywhere and everywhere! I watched a lot of Doctor Who to research into the worlds and the sound of the show in general. Its difficult to take too much inspiration for a show such as ours as it’s so unique but I’ve tried to create things true to the world of Doctor Who, both the modern reboots and also the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop sounds.
What’s it been like working with such a huge team of creatives for Time Fracture? Have you found any particular moments where your work has complimented another persons work?
It’s been a great team work this show and I’ve loved every minute! I’ve been very fortunate that Tom, Terry (Lighting Designer) and I have worked together on many productions in the past and have a great working relationship. The collaboration between lighting and video is something we have worked very hard on for this show and it’s very rare to find a sound effect not complimented by a lighting effect and vice versa. There are some really nice subtle moments which all add to the general sound and look of the piece and help add nice little sweeteners - adding to the 4D feeling of the show. My favourite moments in the piece though have, without doubt, been created by collaborating with our music producer/composer Daniel Nolan. Music has such a way to move people emotionally and it’s really powerful. Both Danny and I use the “goosebumps test” with all our work and I hope we succeed in giving the audience goosebumps as well! Sound and Video are of course intrinsically linked as well and collaborating with the video team producing all the video content for the show has created some really special moments too, which I really hope the audience will love. I just hope they play the game hard enough to find all the different video easter eggs hidden around site!
What behind the scenes secrets can you offer us?
I don’t want to give too much away but do make sure you talk to ALL the actors, there are lots of hidden easter eggs within the set and narrative that you can only find by really playing along - so make sure you do! I didn’t make all that video content for fun you know. There are also 22 discreet acoustic spaces on the show all with their unique sound design and 120 loudspeakers. See if you can find them all as some are very well hidden!
Who is your favourite Doctor?
I always quite enjoyed Matt Smith’s Doctor because he was fun and quirky and of course bow ties are cool, however I’ve recently changed my mind though having had the joy of working with Sylvester McCoy on this show. Recording with him was the most fun I’ve ever had in a recording studio.
Do you prefer Jelly Babies or Jammie Dodgers?
Jelly Babies, I prefer the sugar to the biscuit base of a jammy dodger - although my true kryptonite are wine gums. Late night plotting sessions are 100% powered by wine gums.
What monster (featured in Time Fracture) scares you the most?
Weeping Angels, 100%, now we’ve teched it - I’m not going in that room again.
Have you ever tried Fish Fingers and Custard? Or, would you?
I haven’t and I don’t want to! Sounds disgusting!
Do you have any memories of watching Doctor Who on television or or personal connections to the series?
I remember when I was at university sitting round with my house mates, a few beers, pizza from the pizza shop round the corner and watching the latest episode each week. It was the highlight of our week. Nowadays of course you can stream them all on iPlayer!
How do you think audiences will feel leaving Time Fracture?
Buzzing, uplifted and entertained. Probably drained too, it’s a full on few hours of fun and action for the audience!!