Interview with Clemence Williams, composer and sound designer The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Audiences and critics have marveled at the stunning fusion of cinema and live theater that takes place in Dorian Gray’s photoadapted for the stage and directed by Kip Williams of the Sydney Theater Company.

The return of stage shows after two years of COVID lockdown was reason enough to celebrate, but the haunting nature of this production – recently extended until August 7 – also seems like a hugely important moment for Australian theatre.

Eryn Jean Norvill in The Picture of Dorian Gray.Credit:Daniel Boud

But while much of the focus has been on Eryn Jean Norvill’s extraordinary stage production and performance, there’s another element worth praising: the show’s sound design.

Composer and sound designer Clemence Williams – now working with her brother, Kip, on the Sydney Theater Company stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – said the public reaction to the music in Dorian Gray was exciting.

Clemence Williams.

Clemence Williams.Credit:

“I was bombarded by the audience, who asked me questions about the music for the show,” she said. “It references a lot of existing music, in addition to my score, and I get at least one email a week, if not more, asking me what is that last song on the show?

“I had to put a little note on my website, saying, ‘If you’re wondering what this song is, this is this song. I hope you enjoyed the show”. It’s wonderful for people to be so committed and want to get involved in the work beyond the performance. It’s so special.

A graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Williams also received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Sydney Conservatorium in 2014 and works in theater and opera. When not writing scores, Williams is also a director with a long list of credits, including The cherry orchard, Chamber pot Opera, Broken glass, Chorus, Unfinished worksand Transience.

Williams’ role as a composer and sound designer on Dorian Gray’s photo earned him a Sydney Theater Award nomination for Best Sound Design, but working alongside actors Norvill, Nikki Shiels, her brother and the creative team was its own reward.

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