Monday, 2 September 2013

Siberia in North London: recording Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk

Drawing breath after a busy week, the main part of which was spent in London, recording my new Radio 4 play at the home / studio of one of the truly great radio drama directors, Cherry Cookson. I can remember as a kid a long holiday drive to Scarborough being whiled away by listening to a cassette of Cherry's Radio 4 production of Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier - one of those formative experiences that made me want to write for radio in the first place: a thrill, all these years later, to be working with the great lady herself.

It was a new experience for me, all my previous BBC plays having been recorded in the safe confines of a studio, to be recording the interiors in an upstairs bedroom, the exteriors in Cherry's garden, at least during the gaps between helicopters and planes flying overhead, not to mention the occasional police siren. But one crow made an absolutely on-cue contribution at mention of one of the characters dying.

We had a great cast, led by a newcomer to radio in the leading role of tragic, murderous Katerina Ismailova - Rochenda Sandall, who I think is going to be a very highly-ranked actress in the next few years, especially if this production gets listened to! Incredible to think her only previous radio drama experience had been 'rhubarbing' in a crowd scene. But she grabbed hold of her character and really took off with it.

This was most of all a special production because it was the first Radio 4 commission for the Wireless Theatre Company, who've been working miracles on the internet for the last few years to what must have been very limited financial reward, led on through thick and thin by the wonderful Mariele Runacre Temple, the single-minded visionary behind the company, one of the true saviours of radio drama in our time. I had already done a handful of plays with them for the sheer love of it - Medusa On The Beach, Blood And Stone (in conjunction with 3D Horror Fi) & the upcoming Redder Than Roses: A Glimpse Of Mary, Queen Of Scots, just glad of the chance to do some of my best work free of the sometimes confining strictures of BBC production... and suddenly it's all paid off, for all of us, in terms of old school mainstream BBC recognition.

It's all still to be edited and we'll see what happens with some of the violence in the murder scenes... which is pretty hard-hitting... but as a writer I feel in safe hands with this particular team.

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