Today is the day – almost one year after saying, “I’m gonna go off and write things.” – that my first radio play is going to be broadcast live on Roundhouse Radio.
You can listen to it live Tuesday 16th December at 3pm here:
Or listen to it after, anytime you bloody well like, right here:
Written/Directed by – Scott Barnett
Produced by – Catherine Brinkworth
Edited by – Liam Emerson
Lucy – Zoe Zak
Jason – Michael Patrick
Barry – Othniel Powell
Lois – Rachel Kilpatrick
Laura – Rhiann Francis
Phillip – Tom Tokley
The Warm Up Act is a comedy-drama that holds a magnifying glass to three couples as they make their way into a music gig – squabbling over love, lust and lasagne. The marriage in a rut, the awful Okcupid first date and the uncomfortable post-relationship get together as friends thing.
It’s the first time since making the decision to try and do this writing thing, that I’ve gone from conception of an idea to the final product, out there for all the world to see. It’s serendipitous that it should happen with the Roundhouse, as the play is set in the Roundhouse and the idea was conceived in the Roundhouse…plus, it’s round…like a circle…the building, not the play….which has a certain symmetry to it and…yeah….no…I’ve not turned into a pretentious twat…just yet.
I don’t have delusions of grandeur, I know it’s just a small thing at the very beginning of what will hopefully be a career but, I heard this recently (can’t remember where) – you should mark your successes, big or small, instead of constantly batting them away and saying, “yeah but, it’s not X or Y” (why anything would be X or Y is beyond me, unless you’re a graph maker who specialises in doing the axis bits…am I right?! No, shut up Scott). You should celebrate the little wins because one day, they’ll just feel like another day in the office, so that’s what I’m doing…with a blog post and maybe a chocolate biscuit.
Should anyone listen to it, should anyone like it, should anyone wish they were doing something like that, should anyone stumble upon this post, should anyone care what advice I have to offer – Get your arse on Ideastap, who offer free (genuinely free) workshops, advice and creative briefs open to anyone and everyone (mostly), there isn’t a catch, no-one is trying to make money off your dreams, and they sincerely want to help nurture new talent in every creative field. Have a look around the site, get researching and apply for everything that interests you.
This was truly a fantastic experience – to create something for the Roundhouse is genuinely a privilege. Everyone involved in the process has been extraordinarily lovely and supportive, including the cast and production team and it’s something I will cherish on my writers CV. But you know what’s better than all that professional stuff, if I’m honest…just recording it…sitting in a room with six actors all reading the words you wrote, seeing them enjoy it – giggling at times – is utterly thrilling. It was just plain fun to make and I want to do more things like that.
So what’s next? Well, I’m still applying for everything. The next step is the Edinburgh Festival – I’m planning to take my first full length play up next year and have just begun the funding application process – it’s going to be a steep learning curve, as well as my first visit to Edinburgh Festival in general, which can’t possibly live up to the hype I keep getting bombarded with…can it? (I sense another blog post next August).
Have I made the right choice in trying to do these things? I have no idea. I’m poor, single, more neurotic than I’ve ever been, my determination is being tested more than ever, everyone around me seems to be moving on to the next stage of growing up and that’s scary, and the idea that I could be wasting my time niggles at me like a splinter every second of everyday…but I tell you what…it’s bloody well not boring and that’s nothing to sniff at (insert witty comment about sniffing at things here). Going for your dreams should never be easy or it wouldn’t have value…(keep repeating that to yourself Scott until you believe it).
See you at the next milestone.
Erica McKoy – a blogger at the Roundhouse asked me a few questions about the play and writing for radio, here are my full answers to them, should you still be reading:
“1. Was this your first radio drama? If so, what was it like writing for actors who would only be producing audio content? If not, when did you first get involved in radio drama?
This was my first time writing for radio. I don’t think I approached it any differently than writing anything else, perhaps naively. I’ve always been a real lover of dialogue, I love the rhythm of it and the back and forth between two people, so I was quite excited to be able write something that would let me focus on just that.
Of course I had to take into consideration that the voices and the characters needed to be really distinct from one another in order for things not to get confusing, but in some ways that force helped me to really define the characters.
2. What was the experience like, writing a piece that you knew would be produced and then put out for people to listen to on Roundhouse Radio (a venue that is known for appreciating and showing off the arts)?
Liberating and exciting, whilst being simultaneously daunting. Anything you do, you want it to be good, but creating something for the Roundhouse meant a certain standard for quality and a certain level of expectation is set and you want your work to sit comfortably and proudly with its creative neighbours, upon which it will be ultimately judged.
The great thing I found about working with the Roundhouse radio production team was the freedom they allowed creatively. There was no push to tune the play towards a particular demographic or compromise on story or character, no moulding the play to fit a particular style, as you’ll hear from the wide variety of plays that were produced. It was an incredible chance to write something for radio that sounds different to most radio drama, hopefully I haven’t been spoiled for the future by the experience.
3. What was the creative process like? How is writing for radio different to any other piece of writing you’ve done in the past?
I’m a firm believer that the medium should fit the story you’re trying to tell and this story was always for radio, so it felt quite natural despite never having written in that way before, it just felt appropriate.
Saying that, there were challenges I hadn’t fully considered. I have a tendency to write a lot of non-verbal communication and I really enjoy playing with the subtleties of human nature and trying to truly capture how we interact with each other, which is much harder to convey with audio alone. You just have to hope you’ve created rich enough characters, that enable the listener to create those visuals themselves. There’s also the trick of trying to avoid clunky exposition, whilst making it clear where the characters are and what’s going on.
What I really enjoy about radio is how personal it is. You’re speaking straight into the listener’s ears, you’re in their head essentially and unlike TV, films or stage, which is usually a somewhat shared experience – TV less so these days – with radio it’s much more intimate in nature.
4. What influenced your piece? What inspired the first thought processes to this idea?
The concept came about initially after coming to the Roundhouse with a friend of mine to see a show. Everyone can relate to the experience, you stand around waiting for it to begin. People are milling about and slowly they begin inching their way closer to the stage as it nears the start. In that time you can’t help but eavesdrop, it’s impossible not to and suddenly in this sea of people, you pick out little stories happening all around you.
The thing that got me was a couple behind us, on what was clearly an awful first date, it was deliciously awkward to listen to. I never saw their faces and as the crowd shifted, their voices got lost in the din. It got me thinking and I began talking with my friend about the idea, in which all these couples are having their little dramas. It was at this point I realised, I was in my own story and that, there were probably people listening in to my conversation and it made me chuckle. You never think you’re “those” people, but everyone is.
The idea floated around in my head for a while and when I saw the call out for radio plays from the very venue in which the idea was conceived, I knew it was the perfect time to write it.
5. Did you have to make any sound props? If so, what was the strangest sound to come from one of those props?
No sound props for this one, however there is a point in the play where a character grabs another’s private parts and there had to be a particular vocal response to that, which took a few entertaining goes to get right.
6. Do you think radio dramas is something you’ll continue to write for? (Absolutely fine if not).
Absolutely. Throughout the process I was constantly thinking of more stories that could take place on that same night, in that same venue and would love to write some more of those, as well as a new series of short radio plays revolving around one night stands.
My next project is for stage, I’m planning to take my first full length play up to Edinburgh next year. After that though, given the opportunity, I’d really love to do some more radio.”