In the absence of much staged work, audio plays have been having a bit of a resurgence and writers and actors have reembraced the liberating format particularly when it comes to trying out new ideas. The cleverly named Down Stage Write is a regional production company hailing from Devon/Cornwall which encourages and promotes the work of playwrights based in the area. One of their latest projects, Write Up 2021, has culminated in five pieces under the generic title of Write Hear which have been released via the Theatre Royal, Plymouth and contain some fine examples of newly written short form plays in audio form covering a range of topics in a variety of formats. Three of the writers were new to me though I have had the pleasure of encountering work by Tania Amsel and Neil Bebber before.
The latter was a recent OnComm winner for his online play Breathe and it was Rocks, his piece in this collection, that I found the most immediately pleasing. It concerns a man (James Murphy-Stevens) who has fled to the edge of the world, or at least a lighthouse in a remote location off Argentina, to escape his past history of bullying and parental neglect but he has packed some of his demons in his bag and taken them with him. They emerge in the guise of a mermaid (Jodie Paget) who in traditional mode tries to lure him to his doom. This mythical creature’s West country accent indicates she is more to do with his past than his present and the result is a great little juxtaposition between the legendary and the deliberately banal.
There is another legendary sea creature on hand in Charlotte Turnbull’s No Home For A Kraken which examines some of the mental health issues surrounding early motherhood and which in the case of Lucy threaten to drag her into the depths. It’s a monologue taken from the author’s own short story (click here) but works just as well as a dramatised reading by Melanie Downs. Also caught up in some mental turmoil is the central figure in Wild Woman Wolf Child 4th by Jane Spurr. The protagonist here cleans holiday homes but escapes this humdrum existence by imagining herself as some sort of avenging demon wreaking havoc. It’s a similar juxtaposition as used in Rocks though here Samantha Lund is given a far more strident personality and the piece comes across as an entertainingly extended rant against mediocrity.
The last pair of plays deal with the topic of death. In By Candlelight, Richard Hainsworth’s Bobby is a widower finding it difficult to let go of the past. This low key monologue by James Pickthall is perhaps the most conventional play of the quintet and is a tender portrait of a relationship which has endured and which still does even after the ultimate separation has occurred. Tania Amsel’s Fly Girl brings the collection to a close. It is much the longest of the pieces (though still only 20 minutes) so has room to tell a rather more developed story centring on a mysterious death. Lauren Soper plays Mac a search and rescue pilot in the remote Northwest Territories of Canada who has always longed to fly but makes some discoveries about the world and herself. As with her earlier play which I enjoyed, Blood Orange, Amsel has created a credibly warm character who draws you into her world and makes you want to hear more.
I don’t think any of these pieces have any great pretensions to be other than they actually are though they are both entertaining and thought provoking. They make a pleasantly relaxing listen on a warm afternoon and the project of which they are a part clearly gives writers room to develop and refine their craft. Let’s hope that projects like this continue to support the audio format even after we all get back to “normal”.
Write Hear is available via the Theatre Royal, Plymouth – click here
Further digital content from Down Stage Write is available on their website -click here
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