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STIFF - THE MUSICAL. WRITTEN BY AND STARRING FORBES MASSON
The cast performing the title song "Stiff!"
The cast (left to right): Fletcher Mathers, Robert Paterson, Jennifer Black, Forbes Masson, George Drennan, Susy Kane, Tom McGovern, Bob Carr singing the title song "Stiff". (Photo by Kevin Low)

Forbes Masson (centre), probably best known for the cult BBC comedy series "The High Life" and "The Young Person's Guide To Becoming A Rock Star" recently starred in his own musical "Stiff", touring Scotland with a sound system provided by GB Audio and operated by Steve McManus.                            top

Stiff follows the tale of monumental mason George Mathieson (Forbes Masson), thirty something and unfulfilled, who makes a deal with a devil called Neville. Our hero is flung headlong into a roller coaster ride towards ultimate success and his own destruction. The show takes a wickedly irreverent swipe at many aspects of pre-millennial Scotland as James Bond sings James Brown, easy listening Rocky Horror collides with Scottish Variety tradition and ends up in this darkly funny and ingenious musical.

Sound Designer, Graham Bodenham, was asked to make sense of the sound needs of the show. "The drums, keyboards, bass and guitar are in fixed positions on opposite sides of the stage. That's the straightforward bit. Then we have sax, trumpet and violin with wireless transmitters attached, played by three of the actors. The cast of eight are all using Audio-Technica ATM73 cardioid condenser headset mics on Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser body packs to give them complete freedom of movement without compromising the vocal quality".

Jack threatens a "very close shave" to anyone who gets in his way

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Charismatically evil gangster / Parliamentarian Jack McIvor with Neville (the devil) and henchmen (Photo by Kevin Low)      top

Tom Piper's set design uses a stylised curved rear wall, which posed additional acoustic problems. Sound reflections in a parabola create hotspots and phase effects so the stage monitoring had to be focused at careful angles to minimise bounce back, whilst maintaining a high degree of vocal clarity for the singers.

"The intelligibility of the lyrics is hugely important", stressed Graham Bodenham. "Forbes's intricate wordplay and cleverly crafted songs call for a high definition sound system with well defined control. The Soundcraft K3 FOH console is great for this level of show but I also use a TC 1140 parametric EQ and dbx 166 compressor for fine tuning the vocal group as well as individual dbx 166 compression inserted on the vocal channels". A Sabine FBX900 automatic notch filter in active mode over a 1/3 octave graphic gives preset and instant control of the vocal foldback. Sound effects and recorded tracks are on a Tascam MD801 professional minidisc. Real time effects are achieved on a Yamaha SPX1000 and SPX90.

Shermann UK supported the Stiff tour by providing, free of charge, the first ever prototypes of the new GX601 to road test, along with GX-BS118 subs, GX-D301 fills, LM-301 stage monitors and AX series amplification (by Chameleon), all of which performed faultlessly (in fact we liked the D301 fills so much we have bought some for our rental stock, Ed.).                top

visit the Shermann website? Shermann LM-301 low profile wedge monitor

This was the first full scale musical ever at the Royal Lyceum Theatre (Edinburgh), made possible thanks to a collaboration with Diva Productions, The Tron Theatre (Glasgow), Dundee Rep and the MacRobert Art Centre (Stirling).

 

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Further information from the manufacturers:

Shermann, Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, dbx, Tascam, Yamaha, TC Electronic, Soundcraft, Lyceum Theatre