The Interrogation of Leo & Lisa was a one off, live theatre piece directed by and starring Kevin Spacey with Thandie Newton and Elliot Cowan. This very special performance was commissioned by IWC Schaffhausen to mark the launch of their Da Vinci range of luxury watches. The three-handed play was performed infront of a star-studded invited audience of 1,500, as part of an exciting evening of entertainment at The Palexpo, Geneva.
Steve Rafter created the sound design and operated the live sound for this piece, which was also filmed on a multi-camera shoot earlier on the same day of performance. In this thought provoking play, The Interrogator (Kevin Spacey) questions Leonardo Da Vinci (Elliot Cowan) and his muse Lisa (Thandie Newton) about his life and his greatest works and in doing so, puts notions of creativity, art, inspiration and modernity in under scrutiny. Does it matter that Leonardo hardly ever finished anything? If so, how can “Leo” be worthy of his genius status and the immortality his ideas and sketches have brought him.
The concept behind the sound design was to create a cinematic feel for the piece, as if the audience had walked into a scene from a feature film. The idea behind some of the sonic themes used was to create repetitive, rhythmic, metallic sounds which share a similar sound space as a clock tick, for example, footsteps, metronomes, helicopter blades, and the repetitive bump of a needle when left playing at the end of a record. These themes were employed to create tension for the audience, whilst subtly reinforcing the concept of the product of the IWC Da Vinci range of watches as well as underscoring the themes of time or timelessness within the text.
Sound was used to emerse the audience in the theatrical world of the play. So, the moment a huge sliding door revealed the, up until that point, hidden theatre space to the audience as they finished their meal, sound played a huge part in the transformation of the space into a place where anything could happen.
The sound was cued from a Pro Tools rig set up running from a laptop, feeding a multi-channel, surround sound speaker setup. The surround set up was particularly important for the SFX cue of the SWAT team invasion and the robbery of the “Mona Lisa”, as the goal was for the audience to really feel as though the space was being invaded from all sides. With helicopters flying overhead, barking dogs and ranks of SWAT team footsteps and radio chatter working with moving lights helping to create a feeling of excitement and disorientation. This worked in stark contrast to the angelic, choral piece by Tallis that was used before hand as a pre-set for the audience to discover the space in. The famous Tallis piece, “Spem in alium” was mixed with clips of Leonardo’s writings, recorded in Italian, to give a sense that Leonado was talking to us “through the ages” and that there was a timeless quality to the space, which was a theme explored in the play.
The play was written by Morgan Lloyd Malcom, directed by Kevin Spacey – the film was directed by Hamish Jenkinson. The play and movie was produced by The Old Vic and Mini Partners.
Theatre / Short Film