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An interview with... Helen Skiera

We caught up with RED RIDING HOOD Helen Skiera who gave us an insight into how to become a sound designer. Check it out!

What does a Sound Designer do?
A sound designer looks after everything that you hear in a show. Depending on the type of show that might be live music and singing, or music that's already recorded. It could also be sound effects like the atmosphere or the sound of birds in the morning, or like in this panto, the sound of a wolf pooing out humans into a toilet!

We also design the sound system that you hear all the noises through, which means choosing what speakers to use and where to put them, and using effects and software that goes along with that.

How does someone become a Sound Designer?
You can do a university degree in Sound Design, or you can work in theatre and gain experience that way.

Who or what have been some of your inspirations?
The Royal Court Theatre, and everyone who worked there during Dominic Cooke and Kate Horton's reign. David McSeveney, Gareth Fry, Caz Downing, Ben and Max Ringham, Chris Shutt, Paul Arditti.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into Sound Design?
First – you can do it, whoever you are. You can learn the technical things, and develop your own style, and when you don't understand things, you can ask others. Get as much experience as you can, do sound design for your school show, go and watch as many plays as you can. If you can do a university degree, do that, if you can't, go and work in a theatre. Meet as many people as you can; the directors who make fringe shows will one day be running companies of their own. Talk to people who are sound designers and go and shadow them.

What was the first panto you ever saw?
I can't remember the exact show, but it would have been at York Theatre Royal. My whole primary school went every year, it was a MASSIVE event in the days of no mobile phones or internet! I loved the panto and returned many years into adulthood. Berwick Kaler has been the Dame since dinosaurs roamed the earth and he is a bit of a legend in the North.

What are some of your inspirations for Red Riding Hood?
For the story and the adventure of it all, the first pantos that I saw and thinking about what was so exciting about them as a little child. Also listening to fairytales, watching films where you really believe the danger and excitement. For the comedy, slapstick comedy that is also really stylish, like Laurel and Hardy. Comedians who used sound and music really well like Morecambe and Wise, and French and Saunders.

What’s your favourite thing about panto?
That it breaks the rules of theatre; you don't have to sit quietly, you can shout, and sing along, and you get sweets, and it's really funny.

If you were in a panto, would you rather be a hero or a villain?

What makes a Stratford East panto so unique?
The people performing in it are like people you actually meet, and the story has lots of references to Stratford and real things in our lives, even if it is in a fantasy way. I think that makes me more interested in it, and it is funnier.

If you didn’t work in theatre, what would you be doing?

TV Show: Richard Osman's House of Games
Film: Hunt for The Wilderpeople
Play: Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth
Album: Self Esteem – Prioritise Pleasure
Book: Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout

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