Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Phonic Drama Show

Since mid-February (and so much has happened that I haven't had a chance to write about it - but that's another story involving the Collective!) Deor of Widsith & Deor has begun a second radio show on Phonic, a Thursday morning weekly slot - ambitious given the time constraints? Certainly, but he's managing very well, and I have been recruited as the Associate Script Editor, reading the scripts that come in and assessing them for broadcast. It's been another rollercoaster, as squeezing it all in with everything else is just madness, but to my surprise (although there are scripts waiting to be read even as I write) it is proving possible.
   The Show alternates between dramatic storytelling by Deor, storyteller/solo renditions of classic plays, so far Greek tragedy! and plays sent in by playwrights, so far ones with access to their own recording studios and actors, which is brilliant. We have been amazed and delighted at the quality of the work sent in, and as the Phonic Drama Show swings between experimental and Exeter's answer to Radio 4, so the fortnightly 'Widsith and Deor Presents...' has been making occasional stabs at being the city's reply to Radio comments on how it's been going, we have no producer but ourselves!
   The solo Greek tragedies, Euripedes' 'The Bacchae' and his (almost unwatchable and unlistenable in the grim stakes as well as so loaded that it was banned by the Greek colonels in the 1960's) 'Trojan Women' have both been performed by Deor. I have to admit I wasn't sure it could be done, as both have quite a number of characters! But was astounded, as ever by his versatility. 'The Bacchae' is one of the most beautiful plays ever written, with incredibly poetic language, and one of those tragedies that is, for me, like Macbeth - there are times when you want to cry, but, like the opera Carmen, somehow everything is as it should be, and the gods or the witches or the cards have their way, and strangely it seems right in that context. The Trojan Women by contrast is one of the grimmest and possibly finest, and certainly earliest known, of anti-war plays ever written. It deals with war from the what-happen-to-the-civilians? view - the women after the city is captured. Enough said.
   In the storytelling shows, Deor has been doing epic cycles from the Finnish Kalevala, and this morning's show was of Viking myths of the gods, but told as a series, with background techno/dance tracks to up the tempo and tension. It was powerful stuff - well, I was moved, and I've heard some of them many times before. The interpretation took up the usual mantle of blood-thirsty gore and comic book slapstick of the Norse gods' tales and turned them into a well-forged blade, dipped in ironies and laden with extra depths, multi-faceted, bringing out the real tragedy and the dark politics involved in a way that I've seldom heard done with Nordic retellings. A heady brew!
   Once a month at the moment there's a 'Storyclub Special' where whatever we've managed to record from that month's Storyclub gets played on the show. I say 'managed' as Michael Dacre must've put a copyright spell on his tales, as the machine never plays back his brilliant tellings!
   More new plays are in the pipeline, including a political satire by the author of our first featured play the tragi-comedic 'The Rose Garden', Simon Jackson a professional writer and film maker based in Edinburgh. We are also looking for Devon and Exeter based playwrights, so if you have something, and especially if you can produce/record it yourself, we would be interested to hear it! Just e-mail it to me, the Editor at the usual e-mail.