Det Norske Teatret, Oslo dates back to 1912, founded by Hulda Garborg and Edvard Drabløs, it then opened the following year. Considered one of the most prestigious theatres in the Norwegian capital, Det Norske Teatret is also the large playhouse featuring four stages. Welcoming over 260,000 visitors per year, its programme varies from musicals to new interpretations of Norwegian and European classics, and new Norwegian and international drama. For one particular musical production, Lazarus, which began its run at the theatre last summer, a decision was made to install a new PA.

Lazarus, a musical based on the novel The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis, was developed into a musical by the late David Bowie and Edna Walsh. It features a number of Bowie songs, including the title track, which was one of two songs that were the last of his written work before he sadly passed in 2016. Having premiered in New York and then moving to London where it played a limited sell-out season at the purpose built King’s Cross Theatre, it’s easy to see why Det Norske Teatret wanted an new PA when it got the license for Lazarus – there were some big shoes to fill.

A theatre – and the impending production – both of such high calibre meant the project was put out to a public tender, and eight companies submitted a bid for the installation. One of the companies was locally based, AVON, the exclusive distributor of VUE Audiotechnik in Norway. A relatively new audio brand by all accounts – founded in 2012 – it is the brainchild of Ken Berger (co-founder of EAW), Jim Sides (no longer with the company) and Mike Adams of Sound Image fame at the helm of R&D. AVON’s founder and Sales Manager, Edgar Andraa Lien took on the distribution for the brand together with Tor Breivik and Tor Erik L Johansen after developing a true passion for the products and the company’s philosophy. So, when this tender arose, he was certain he had the components for a winning bid.

“We were the smallest company with the highest price, but we won the tender,” Edgar confirmed. “The project cost €135,000 but we had all the products that we needed in stock, which meant the installation took place in super quick time.”

Edgar was assisted by Holger de Buhr, Managing Director of VUE Audiotechnik Europe, he said of the install: “The layout of the theatre is like a university theatre, so the seating gets a little bit wider as it rises, and it also has a removable wall, which can be lowered from the ceiling to make the audience smaller if required.”

With two different setups to cater for, it was important to make the system as functional and precise as possible. A key part of the design outlined in the tender was to have the PA as the main power source that provided full coverage, without the need for an extensive delay and fill line-up, too.

“We used EASE modelling software to predict the output of the PA, and the data was certified by Tony Sawyer, former VUE Audiotechnik APAC Technical Support Specialist,” continued Edgar. “We did our calculations in RMS power not peak power, so they might appear lower than average, but they were realistic, and I think this played a part in us winning the tender.”

L-R VUE Audiotechnik line arrays were selected for the main PA, each hang comprises 10 al-8 premium high definition three-way beryllium line array cabinets. The boxes are panned at 15º inwards so the coverage follows the architecture. “The arrays are positioned perfectly,” added Holger. “Normally they are quite wide on stage and the audience is only a few metres away but here, the arrays are set slightly further in, to gain that full coverage.”

The position of the arrays works for both a full capacity audience and a half capacity audience, as Edgar and Holger implemented two different presets so the in-house theatre technician can quickly and easily move between the different modes. VUE Audiotechnik’s VUEpoint beam steering was implemented to create the two different distinct patterns.

To supplement the main PA hangs, three VUE Audiotechnik hs-221 premium self powered infrasonic ACM subwoofers have been flown in the centre of the stage. Both Edgar and Holger prefer subwoofers to be flown – design permitting – so they were pleased when it was possible to rig the double 21-inch boxes from the ceiling without any complaints from lighting designers, architects or indeed the theatre itself. Everyone was very cooperative to find the best solution.

Holger furthered: “I’m a big fan of flown mono subwoofers. You lose a bit of SPL power in the air, as you lose the ground coupling, but if you have them in a higher position the bass in the complete room is far more even. It’s a luxury to fly subwoofers and you need to have more power than if they were on the floor, but if you want full even coverage, this is the royal way to install them.”

Edgar added: “If the subwoofers were onstage there would be a minimum 24dB difference from the front seats to the back seats.”

In addition to the main audio line-up, Edgar and Holger also added four VUE Audiotechnik h-5 premium self-powered high-definition two-way beryllium wide coverage loudspeakers on the stage lip, another four VUE Audiotechnik h-12 premium self-powered high-definition two-way beryllium wide coverage loudspeakers for surround effects, and one VUE Audiotechnik hs-25 premium self-powered ACM subwoofer hung at roof height in the middle of the seating, to further enhance the low end sound effect frequencies.

Powering the system are 10 VUE Audiotechnik V6-d six-channel DSP / Dante amplifiers. The theatre also has two Studer consoles, so when it’s in rehearsal mode or when the dividing wall is in place, the mixing position is lowered into the audience – along with the wall – but for large productions FOH is at the back of the audience. There are a couple of VUE Audiotechnik e-class monitors and a subwoofer at FOH for the mixing engineer, which are time aligned and frequency aligned.

Despite the installation taking place at rapid speed, Edgar advised they did spend a lot of time in other areas. The EASE calculation document was 75 pages, and more than 150 hours were spent predicting potential problems that might occur. “We began the installation when everyone left for summer vacation,” Edgar said. “We put up 800-metres of cabling and all the loudspeakers – just three guys in one week. We tried to predict what changes we would be asked to make, and we put a lot of work into that. One issue came up from the lighting side, but we had that problem fixed within four hours, which they were very impressed with!”

With a number of sell-out shows for Lazarus having taken place already, some credit for that must be given to the new audio setup. Whether the audience is fully aware of that or not is a different matter, but in a theatre environment, it’s all about creating an encompassing experience, and the audio plays a vital role in that. Edgar and Holger certainly seemed pleased with the end result, and with new theatre projects on the horizon, it seems the local market is onboard, too.