Category Archives: Earcandy

In the News from Belinda Kingsbury

Burn the Rich by Tony Jones. Illustration by Boz Groden

Burn the Rich by Tony Jones. Illustration by Boz Groden

Belinda Kingsbury talks to Rachel Cooper

The centre of a hurricane can feel surprisingly calm,
and the Aberystwyth hotel room I’m sharing with
fire-fighter Rachel Cooper is wonderfully serene.

Looking leggy and relaxed in tight black jeans, she is
a million miles from the angry, hollow-cheeked
firebrand 20 million of us have watched on
the Youtube.

If you haven’t seen the news recently, Rachel put
out one fire whilst lighting a few of her own.

I ask if she had any inkling the story would ignite
as it did, leaving her (A Scottish fire-fighter in London)
to hide out on a windy seafront in West Wales.

“No idea at all” she sighs. “It was all so sudden”

“Sudden” is no exaggeration.

On Tuesday Rachel had learned the flat she was attending in posh OneHydePark was registered abroad to avoid paying council tax.

Outraged that the owners had gone to such lengths to avoid paying for her services, she promptly charged them £50,000 to put out the fire.

The camera-phone video of this discussion went viral and spread like wildfire throughout Wednesday.

By Thursday binmen in Westminster were asking to see Council Tax bills.

On Friday police refused to attend a hastily-arranged demo outside Google’s new offices. Terrified staff burst out of fire exits and the owners learned that glass isn’t always the best building material.

Over the weekend, damage to several West End stores led to an avalanche of companies quickly changing their tax structures.

I ask if she feels guilty about all the destruction that was caused.

“I did feel bad at first” she admits, “but then I didn’t make these companies avoid paying their taxes.”

Does she see a moral angle here?

“Definitely. Rich people benefit from there being a government – they get literate workers, roads, protection when banks fail – yet they seem to think they’re exempt from paying for it”

When I ask if she thinks firefighters should refuse to put out fires at the homes of the unemployed since they don’t contribute either, her cool resolve warmed slightly.

“Of course not. They haven’t chosen to be unemployed.”

I say that some people do choose to be unemployed, but she won’t have it.

“You do get a few people claiming Disability Allowance when they’re able to referee a football match, but they’re vilified in the media. Much more so than the millionaires who use London as a tax haven and cost the country much more.”

I point out that the rich contribute much to charities & in other ways. “People like Mrs Parr go to tremendous lengths to avoid paying £900 a year they could easily afford. The service charge in those flats is over £200,000 a year. What they do is immoral”

On the mention of Mrs Parr, I ask if she paid up. It turns out she did, and the money was banked with a charity for injured firefighters.

Finally, I ask if she felt guilty about Mrs Parr’s speedy media descent from Victim to “Rich Bitch They Should Have Left To Burn” (as The Mirror called her)

Rachel laughs. I look at the Fire Brigades Union media handler, who is stifling a giggle too.

“No comment” she says, and I am graciously shown the door.

As I step out to the seafront, a sunset bathing the town a fiery red, I wonder if a little wisp of innocence has been lost this week, another layer of deference peeled away.

Listen to Burn the Rich by Tony Jones


Interview with Sarah Taylor about her audio drama Starlings

Sarah Taylor

Sarah Taylor

Tell me about your play, what is it about and where did you get the idea?
Starlings is about a couple of amateur photographers trying to set up the perfect shot, who get a little help from a passing professional photographer. What they don’t realise is that he is also setting up his shot, and they are going to play a greater part in it that they bargain for. It’s about how people manipulate one another and also raises questions about how much ‘candid art’ can actually be manufactured – does the camera really never lie?

I started from the word ‘birds’. Over coffee, Sandra was talking about some of the other plays and a few of them seemed to include birds in some way or another. Immediately I knew what I wanted to write about – the Aberystwyth starlings! I used to work in the Old College and one of the treats of Autumn was watching the starlings on the promenade practicing for migration, swooping low over the pier. On a dusky evening you can soon see crowds gather – and everybody seems to have a camera on them. I started to wonder about the voices you might hear when people are watching the starlings, trying to set up the perfect shot, and I wanted to have the action in the air mirrored by something equally startling and dramatic happening on the ground.

You are fairly new to audio writing, what where the differences in how you thought about finding an idea for an audio play?
I discarded a few ideas, oddly enough because they weren’t ‘visual’ enough. This surprised me. In theatre you can have two people talking in a room and it will work, but I couldn’t make it work when I just had voices. I had to find a story that I could make the audience ‘see’.

How different did you find the writing process working on an audio play? Did you do anything differently?
I found myself thinking really hard about voices – not in terms of accents but in terms of trying really hard to get different cadences, different line lengths, different vocabulary  into the mouths of the characters. Finding a way to bring out character without the use of props, gestures etc, was a really fun challenge.

What did you learn about writing an audio drama from the EarCandy project?
The thing I learned most was that you have to hear it to know if it is going to work. That’s why working in a group is so useful. When my play was read back to me by the group I could hear the parts that didn’t work, the lines that were cumbersome. It was incredibly helpful.

What was your favourite thing about writing for audio?
The freedom is brilliant – you can take things anywhere. For this project I only took the audience to Aberystwyth Seafront, but for my next project I’m going to take them to an Egyptian tomb. Anything’s possible.

What was your least favourite thing about writing for audio?
Finding a way to express changes in pace or mood without using gestures was hard work, but really rewarding, so although it was a challenge, I guess it’s still not a ‘least favourite’ thing as it paid off and I learned a lot.

Tell me about any other projects you are working on at the moment.
The project has inspired me to try a longer Radio play and I’m working on a project that came into my head when visiting an exhibition about ancient Chinese burial rites in a museum in Cambridge.  I’m also working on a full-length Children’s novel that is a Victorian steampunk story about a girl with strange powers.

Starlings a short audio drama by Sarah Taylor is available to listen to at the EarCandy website

Interview with the giver of the paternal sample (Miles)

My Mother Told Me by Rachel McAdam. Illustration by Boz Groden

My Mother Told Me by Rachel McAdam. Illustration by Boz Groden

Well we all know she’s mad, don’t we…?
You’re saying you think your ex-wife suffers from some kind of mental heath issue?
Well I’m not saying she’s angry here…
No. I’ve got concerns around her capacity to maintain a healthy grip on reality.  Perhaps it’s the menopause….
How did you feel, about the paternity test?
It’s all a bit Jeremy Kyle isn’t it? I mean no man likes to be considered impotent and that’s essentially what she was saying, but I have to consider Evelyn first and foremost in all this.
So you took the test for Evelyn’s sake?
Well it’s not a good feeling leaving your daughter with someone who’s utterly incapable of controlling their emotions. If this is what it takes to get Evelyn out of that madhouse then I’m happy to do it.
Do you believe Evelyn is your daughter?
She’s got my eyes, and my brains, she certainly didn’t get those from her. Look, she knows I’ve asked Evelyn to live with us. This story she’s come up with is pure fabrication. Simple spite. She used to try to make me feel guilty for leaving her and because that’s not working anymore she’s come up with this. It’s just another way to get at me.
Is it working?
No. Actually I’m glad she’s done this. At least Evelyn is seeing her for what she is. It was never going to be easy for her to leave her mother and come and live with me, this paternity stuff is making it all a heck of a lot easier.
Have you ever considered your ex-wife could be telling the truth about Evelyn’s parentage?
It would make a nonsense out of all the maintenance I’ve paid over the years, wouldn’t it?
So the money is important?
What? No. That’s not the point. She’s my daughter and I love her and nothing’s going to change that. Print that in your blog or whatever…

My Mother Told Me by Rachel McAdam is part of the Earcandy audio drama project by Scriptography Productions. 12 plays by 13 writers, 15 performers playing over 50 characters. Listen to My Mother Told Me at the EarCandy website. Follow the project or @earcandy_plays

Five minutes with …..

The Planning Stage by Matt Christmas. Illustration by Boz Groden

The Planning Stage by Matt Christmas. Illustration by Boz Groden

INTERVIEWER: First of all, congratulations on your new play.

A: Thank you, Thom.

INTERVIEWER: A lot of people are calling it your best work to date.

A: Well that’s immensely gratifying of course.
I and the rest of the creative team have been pretty thrilled with the reaction so far.  We always felt we had a really strong concept
right from day one.  The tough part was
finding that special something to hold it all together, that hook that gave such massive themes a relatable context.  Because, after all, I’ve always been clear that I’m writing to reach as wide an audience as possible, so it’s really important to me that the characters speak to and for the metaphorical man in the street.

INTERVIEWER: And that “something” has its roots in the depiction of a father’s relationship with his son, right?

A: Primarily, yes.

INTERVIEWER: The exploration of the father/son dynamic is something that crops up in a lot of your work, is that part of the way you seek to speak to that “man in the street”?

A: Absolutely, and I think all those previous pieces you’re alluding to have been laying the groundwork for this story, this particular father/son narrative.  I hesitate to call it the greatest father/son story ever told, but I think it’s up there!

INTERVIEWER: Sure, sure.  However, one criticism that has been laid at your door is that your plays lack strong female characters.  How would you respond to that?

A: What do you mean?

INTERVIEWER: Just that your plays have been accused, in some quarters, of being overly male-centric, often side-lining female characters to the point that they become cyphers rather than fully formed characters.

A: I don’t think that’s at all fair.  And anyway, name one writer currently working who doesn’t prioritise their male characters.  Trust me, the time will come when that’ll change, but in the current social climate it’s all about exploring the male condition…

INTERVIEWER: But surely that doesn’t make it right?  And can you understand how some people may believe that your attitude simply serves to perpetuate the current social climate?  Someone in your position, with the wide-ranging influence you have as an opinion former, could begin to redress the gender imbalance so that…

A: Let me just stop you there for a moment because I see what you’re suggesting and I just have to say that in my younger days I, like you apparently, was possessed of a more activist, even interventionist, streak.  That’s not a criticism, by the way, far from it.  And I completely agree that women currently get a pretty raw deal and that should certainly change.  The thing is, though, the longer I’ve stuck around in this old world the more I’ve realised that forced, rapid change is seldom for the best.  People need to come to realise their misjudgements naturally, only then can they really commit to being better and making the world better in the way that you’re talking about.  Look, we’re just telling a story here, and it has a lot of really positive messages and ideas for those that wish to hear them.  If it encourages just one person to be more compassionate, loving and forgiving, it will have made a positive difference.  And maybe – just maybe – my alleged “side-lining” of female characters is actually part of a more complex plan to encourage people to notice the gender imbalance and engage with the issue on a more fundamental level.  Have you ever considered that?

INTERVIEWER: I’m sorry, but that just feels like an evasion of the worst kind.

A: I believe your five minutes are up.  Thank you again, Thom.  It’s been a pleasure as always.

The Planning Stage by Matt Christmas is part of the Earcandy audio drama project by Scriptography Productions. 12 plays by 13 writers, 15 performers playing over 50 characters. Listen to The Planning Stage at the EarCandy website. Follow the project or @earcandy_plays

Interview with Christopher T Harris about his audio drama Blood in Brecon

Blood in Brecon by Christopher T Harris. Image by Boz Groden

Blood in Brecon by Christopher T Harris. Image by Boz Groden

Tell me about your play, what is it about and where did you get the idea?
‘Blood in Brecon’ stemmed from the desire to direct a comedy
set in my own back yard of Wales. One afternoon, whilst reading
Neil Simon’s ‘Barefoot in the Park’ it occurred to me how I could write about marriage (even though I have never been married and have no desire to anytime soon) and still generate an almost truthful rendition of a honeymoon couple. Interestingly, this play was first performed for the National Eisteddfod for Mathew Rhys as a stage play.

You are fairly new to audio writing, what where the differences in how you thought about finding an idea for an audio play?
You have to be able to hear the world that you’re placing the characters in. Setting it in that damp and claustrophobic caravan with the rain pattering against the window is a recognizable image to anyone. This felt like a suitable play to adapt for radio in that sense.

How different did you find the writing process working on an audio play? Did you do anything differently?
Everything I have written so far apart from Brecon has been for theatre. Therefore, my plays are very visual. It’s better to show rather than say. You have to be able to do the same method but through a complex blend of skilfully constructed dialogue and recognizable sounds. Everything has to become compact as it were. It can become difficult.

What did you learn about writing an audio drama from the Ear Candy project?
Scale everything down to its smallest level, if possible. Create situations where the audience will be able to build a clear image of the play in their heads.

What was your favourite thing about writing for audio?
From a theatrical perspective, one doesn’t have to worry about all the technicalities that come with the stage play. You only have to worry about nourishing the audience’s mind through the power of the voice.

What was your least favourite thing about writing for audio?
The visceral elements such as physical comedy are sometime necessary for the play. Characters are heightened, especially in Brecon. But as a writer you have to recognise the smaller scale of the operation. You only have to reach ears next to a radio as opposed to eyes in the rafters.

Tell me about any other projects you are working on at the moment.
I’m currently preparing several plays for theatre hopefully to be performed in the next year. It’s all bouncing around in my head at the moment, but in August, I’ll be joining the Oxford’s ‘The North Wall’ theatre as a resident writer for the Summer which is going to be very exciting.

Blood in Brecon is part of the Earcandy audio drama project by Scriptography Productions. 12 plays by 13 writers, 15 performers playing over 50 characters. Listen to Blood in Brecon at the EarCandy website. Follow the project or @earcandy_plays

Robert Harper

Robert Harper

Robert Harper

Robert has always had an immense passion for radio, which began after receiving a Highly Commended award for his entry into the Carlton Hobbs competition in his last year of attending the Welsh College of Music Drama in ’94. During his first two years working in theatre and T.I.E. for companies such as Made In Wales and Theatr Iolo, he also worked hard at realising his dream of working for the BBC Radio Drama Company. A number of of roles in BBC Radio Wales productions ensued and then an audition for the RDC landed him a 12 month contract. That year gave him an amazing opportunity to work with numerous wonderful producers, writers and actors and to fully immerse himself in the medium of dramatic radio production.

He’s acted in over 200 radio plays and radio serials, a selection of which include Against The Grain, Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter, Einstein In Cromer, People Like Us, The Tree of Liberty, War & Peace, Anna Karenina, and was also a lead character, Matt in BBC Wales radio soap opera Station Road.

Robert is also an experienced voice artist, having recorded commercials, computer games, TV narration, short stories, animation and much more for companies worldwide.

Not just a pretty voice, Robert has performed on TV in The Bench, Dirty Work, The Bill, and Tati’s Hotel, and in a number of Short Films and Features.

His theatre work includes the Corman/Grimes in Serious Money for Waking Exploits, the Duke in Measure for Measure, Launce in Two Genteleman of Verona, Séan Tyrone, Fragments of Ash, and can be seen this June/July in Invisible for Next Page Productions.

Robert is also co-founder of County Channel TV and Artistic Director of Bare Fiction, with which he is planning a national project for 2014.

In EarCandy he performs the roles of the King of the Ducks in Duck by Debbie Moon, Baz in The Extension by Carmel George, D in Cursed by Sandra Bendelow, Joe in Starlings by Sarah Taylor, The Man in Lost by Branwen Davies and PIP in Rules are Rules by Dean Scott.

What interested you about being involved in the EarCandy project?
I love acting in audio drama. Every time I get a whiff of a chance of performing for radio, the excitement and anticipation of the project courses through me. Having worked with Scriptography on play readings for some of the writers, it was an added bonus to be experiencing their work through a different medium. And it’s such an unusual project, with a dozen short pieces by different writers, offering a rare chance at playing a number of completely different characters.

Which was your favourite role to perform in EarCandy and why?
My favourite? That’s hard. The King of the Ducks was memorable because it was the first character of mine that we recorded, and obviously, during recording, we had a lot of fun playing the levels of duck noise within the speech. Of course, playing a bell has it’s challenges too, and I can’t wait to hear how Tom has incorporated my thoughts on the character into the soundscape. All of the roles were extremely enjoyable to play, due to the breadth of types, but the hardest was the man in Lost. Hard because of the emotion in the peace. It’s one of those terribly moving scripts that makes you cry when you’re reading it, so you have to overcome the feelings of the listener, and simply be true to the character you’re playing.

You have just been cast in an episode of Archers what does that mean to you as a radio actor?
It’s dream I’ve had for 20 years, since first becoming involved with radio drama, so of course I’m thrilled. I worked on radio drama in the same studio they use to use in BBC Pebble Mill, but this will be my first time in the new studio at the Mailbox. There’s something lovely things about the studio set up that I can’t wait to see, but it’ll be all over far too quickly. They can definitely expect me to keep knocking on the audio door for more.

You have done a vast amount of radio acting what is the strangest thing you’ve been asked to as a radio performance?
When I was a member of the BBC radio drama company in ’96, I was often asked to play characters with varying accents, and, thankfully, regularly lived up to the challenge. One time, producer Sally Avens came up to me in the drama office to talk about the serial of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. Sally asked me, quite calmly, “Can you do Spanish Chicago?”, to which my only possible reply was, “When by?”.

What other projects do you have coming up either as an actor or with your company Bare Fiction?
After the EarCandy launch I’m off to Birmingham to start rehearsals for a new play, Invisible by Liz John & Julia Wright, touring the Midlands. With Bare Fiction we are in the early stages of pre-production for a new play by Lisa Parry called Blood, which will also go on tour. And for 2014 and beyond, I’m planning a big new writing project to take new writing, Bare Fiction style, across the whole of the country with 40 Plays in 40 Nights.

The EarCandy plays are available to listen to at the EarCandy website.

Interview with Sylvia from The Surge

The Surge by Tracey Goddard and Julie Grady-Thomas. Illustration by Boz Groden

The Surge by Tracey Goddard and Julie Grady-Thomas. Illustration by Boz Groden

This is a transcription of the events taking place
Tuesday, 28 May 2013, 11:24AM*
Interviewer (I): Sylvia, can you tell me how you came to be acquainted with Margo Sandler?
Sylvia (S): (Laboured, heavy breathing)
(I): I’m so sorry, your jaw. I didn’t realise it was still wired. I just thought it was the halo. Okay. Let’s try something else. How about writing your answers out.
(S): (Metal rattles against a wooden chair as Sylvia scribbles.)
(I): I understand you’re in custody.
(S): (More metal and more scribbling.)
(I): Well, yes, the police thought the handcuffs were a precautionary—yet necessary—measure.
(S): (Vigorous rattling and scribbling.)
(I): Perhaps it is “ridiculous”, but I’m just here to ask questions, get your side of the story, fair coverage and all that.
(S): (Heavy breathing and scribbling.)
(I): Yes, fair can be a subjective word…
(S): (More rattling and scribbling between very laboured breathing.)
(I): No, it doesn’t seem “fair” that you’re jaw is wired shut…
(S): (Heavy breathing, intense rattling and incessant scribbling.)
(I): …Or the fact that you’re trapped in that halo contraption…
(S): (Scribbling.)
(I): …Plus the cuffs are chaffing and you can barely move, let alone walk or escape…
(S): (Scribbling.)
(I): …or injure yourself…or others.
(S): (A chair bangs against the floor after relentless scribbling.)
(I): All right. I’ll see the about the chaffing. Officer? Officer? Those handcuffs, are they absolutely necessary?
Officer (O): Yes, madam.
(I): You see, this interview will be near impossible if Sylvia can’t express or scribble freely. Surely she doesn’t have to be chained up.
(O): Yes, madam.
(I): “Yes, madam”, you’ll let her out?
(O): No, madam, she must be detained, otherwise…
(I): I’m aware of the risks. Look, she can hardly move.
(S): (A rattle and a whimper.)
(O): Fine. But this is recorded and we have you on record stating you’re aware of the hazards…
(I): Honestly, the cruelty involved. If I can do anything by publishing this piece it will not only be to liberate the truth, but her wrists as well, if only for a moment.
(O): Right. I’ll be on the other side of the door if you need me.
(I): There. That’s better. And here, use my pen, that pencil’s down to nothing. Now, let’s get started. Sylvia, tell me how did you…
(S): (One large laboured breath.)
(I): Wow. I didn’t realize you were so far along in recovery. Standing upright, no support—you’ve made heaps of progress.
(S): (Shuffling)
(I): And that—that—is amazing. You didn’t have to get up and walk over here to show me…my pen? I said you could use it. Honestly, I don’t mind… (Choking)…MY NECK! (Choking)…bloody pen…(Choking)…OFFICER! Offi…
*Audio cuts out at 1:03. Police continue a nationwide hunt for Sylvia Dunham after the brutal murder of _____ ________ who bled to death after being stabbed in the jugular with a pen. Police have asked members of the public to not approach the suspect, but to call local authorities immediately.