The Underglobe houses full production for first time

To celebrate the Bard’s birthday this month, a concert audio production set-up was allowed into the Underglobe, the 1,500-capacity events space situated beneath Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Since the reconstruction in wood of the original Elizabethan playhouse on the Thames South Bank, a full production set up has never been attempted in the main theatre space itself.
London-based live production company ARC Sound, which has a longstanding contractor relationship with the venue, was asked to plan and produce a working solution. Billed as ‘an evening of music and magic’, ARC Sound deployed a JBL VERTEC line source array loudspeaker system and Soundcraft Vi Series digital mixing consoles as the key sound reinforcement components.
“This production was unique, as the Globe hasn’t allowed anything this ambitious to take place previously,” confirmed ARC Sound Owner/Production Manager James Dougill. “I am certain eyebrows were raised initially when all these flight cases started appearing in a venue made entirely out of wood. But the fact we were able to achieve this without creating any noise pollution was down to the detailed pre-production planning we undertook before the event.”
ARC Sound also ensured that the main loudspeaker system complied with the quarter-tonne maximum weight load of the oak beams in the theatre’s ceiling.
Headlining were The Magic Numbers, supported by singer songwriter Johnny Flynn, along with magicians Barry and Stuart, Piff the Magic Dragon and Chris Cox. With the exception of The Magic Numbers all performances took place on an oval thrust, which was in front of the main loudspeaker array hangs.
For the main PA, ARC Sound suspended two symmetrical hangs of six JBL VERTEC VT4887A compact line array elements, with two pairs of JBL VT4880A subs recessed under the stage apron. Each driver was individually addressed to provide alignment delay in a mini-cardioid configuration. Added to this were two fill clusters, each comprising three JBL VRX928LA Constant Curvature loudspeakers.
“Although the throw distance was quite small, the coverage we required was steep – and since we were unable to suspend any further weight from the theatre ceiling, we opted for sharply angling back the VRX clusters,” explained Dougill. “The key criteria here was the vertical coverage required to distribute sound evenly from the downstage edge right up to the third tiered balcony.”
The system was set up using a combination of JBL’s VERTEC Line Array Calculator II software and Smaart field analysis.
With a thatched open roof, Dougill was mindful of sound spill encroaching onto the Thames. “I wanted to get the boxes up into the air, focussed downwards, rather than on the ground pointing up,” he said. “Monitoring the volume during the show was more a question of using common sense than the SPL metering and LAeq measurement equipment we’d set up.”
At front of house ARC Sound fielded its Soundcraft Vi4, with 64-channel software upgrade, while down at the stage Raghav Narula was responsible for all of the onstage monitor mixes, also operating at near 64-channel capacity on one of the company’s Soundcraft Vi1 consoles.
“It was a huge privilege to have been involved in this project – and the Globe were so delighted they are already talking about the next event,” said Dougill.