I thought I would concentrate on audio plays for the rest of this week. Partly because I’ve built up a bit of a backlog in this area and partly because, after miserable May, the weather seems set so fair it’s nice to sit outside with a pair of headphones and experience some outdoor theatre… in my head. The third and most compelling reason is because evenings will be taken up with appearing on stage performing a monologue in Tower Theatre’s Opening Up programme.
At one stage I never thought I’d be able to write the words “appearing on stage” again and, the way things are going, this might be a very brief window of opportunity so it’s a case of carpe diem (sorry to go all Boris on you there). To begin this short auditory season, I went back to a group who have been specialising in pushing the boundaries of audio work during the pandemic. This is 45 North whose first series of Written On The Waves recently completed, swiftly to be followed by Season 2. This has opened with a trio of short plays under the collective title of Lifted. They are performed by the writers themselves who are all relatively new voices.
I wasn’t sure if there was any particular recommended order so just plunged in with the first one that came up. This was T4T which harks back to a time when the internet was in its infancy and so was recognition for the trans community. It’s an era and theme which writer Tabby Lamb has explored before in the earlier piece Since U Been Gone. Lamb is one half of the performing duo too and, with fellow actor b, alternates between dialogue and monologue modes to tell a tale of young love and grappling with identity.
Both wish to transition and inevitably (particularly given the era) this causes tensions in their lives. The issues are only explored in outline but the brevity of the piece really does not allow for anymore. However, the mood is celebratory along with the project’s aim to showcase different types of joy. One caveat – are the text abbreviations used in the duologue sections concurrent with the era being depicted? Something tells me they may not be – but then I don’t really understand half of them anyway not being versed in the art of textspeak.
The second play Busking It is the shortest of the three pieces clocking in at just under ten minutes. It is both written and performed by Danusia Samal and taken from her already existing play of the same name. It reveals how she took her first steps on the road to (literally) finding her voice as a singer.
Samal plays not only “herself” but all the other roles showcasing an impressive range – and she’s no slouch at the singing either. I liked the way her initial tuneless warbling quickly morphed into an ever more sophisticated and complex singing style; concurrently her confidence also develops and the pleasure in her new found craft is self-evident. It’s such a slight piece that I could have wished for more but as a range of snapshots in the development of an artist and the joy which can be found therein it more than fulfils its own brief.
It seems that I had, through no sense of planning, saved the best of the three pieces until last. Dawn’t Stop Believing by Eva Scott is structured as a football fan’s podcast. Dawn Micklethwaite follows Sheffield Wednesday but sometimes wishes she didn’t. Mostly though she looks on the bright side and recognises that you can’t have joy and euphoria without its polar opposite disappointment – just as well as “the Wednesday” aren’t doing too well and could be relegated.
Dawn shares her thoughts with her listeners and in particular Sharon Tripleforth who feels that following their team is “like going out with a bloke who repeatedly breaks your heart”. Scott has created a credible podcasting character and given her a nice turn of phrase full of inventively dry humour which put me very much in mind of Victoria Wood which, to my mind, is a very good thing. I could easily see this being developed into an ongoing character with a regular podcast and I’m certain this would appeal to football fans – and indeed comedy lovers – whatever their team of choice.
All three plays (really playlets) are well directed by Jessica Rose McVay with appropriate sound design by Anna Clock . Written On The Waves is a project into which I have occasionally dipped, but not nearly enough. I plan to rectify that as summer progresses and look forward to catching up with the rest of series 1 and staying abreast of series 2 as further releases are made fortnightly (those confirmed so far are detailed here). These bite sized plays are perfect for summer outdoors – even the trio’s accompanying illustration features someone enjoying them in the sun.