I LOVE doing radio. All of the budgetary restrictions of TV and film disappear when you’re just dealing in sound; it costs the same to set a story in outer space or in the fourteenth century as it does to set it in a farmhouse or on a housing estate. It’s also a great space for pure acting and the actors aren’t worried about how they look and they’re not kept waiting around in trailers. This is one of the reasons we’re able to work with the likes of Phil and Robert Glenister, Lesley Sharp, Sarah Smart, Indira Varma, Tim McInnerny, Hermione Norris and the incomparable Nicola Walker, who is in every one of the radio plays here.
I’ve also been really lucky to find a producer, Karen Rose, who always wants to do something slightly left-field, something that no one else is doing, and who always wants to record on location; to ensure everything sounds as natural as possible, we always record in real locations and move the microphone in the same way as I’d move the camera. Of the four plays here only Kokomo was recorded in a studio and that was only because a sound-proofed hotel room and a sound-proofed studio sound exactly the same.
This year I have a science-thriller called Fugue State commissioned by Radio 4 and they’ve also asked me to do something special (and currently top secret) for Halloween. In 2016, I’m making the pilot for a supernatural/folklore investigation show which we’re all hoping will lead to a full series.
This is the most recent of my radio plays. It came about as a result of a few days spent up at the Wellcome Institute in Cambridge, talking to Paul Fletcher who is a Professor of Psychiatry at the university. We bounced around some ideas about neuroscience and audio illusions and this was the result. The play itself may never have been commissioned were it not for Paul finding himself in a meeting at the BBC and pitching it on my behalf. As ever, the producer was the incomparable Karen Rose and the cast includes regulars Nicola Walker, Tim McInnerny and Steven Mackintosh alongside Ferdinand Kingsley and Phoebe Fox, who absolutely nailed the always tricky role of a multi-dimensional alien entity. The play won a Radio Drama Award for Best Use Of Sound and the Tinniswood Award for best script.
Kokomo is my most recent radio play and it’s a little strange. I wanted to do a locked-room story and I had the idea of the end of the world being negotiated by a handful of people in an anonymous hotel room. I’d also become interested in our growing dependency on information. On top of all this, I was reading up on the Commedia dell’arte so that found its way into the story too. Nicola Walker stars with Tim McInnerny, Louise Brealey, Hermione Norris, Rufus Wright and Robert Glenister.
This was my first full-length radio play. Going in, all I knew was that I wanted to use sound the way we use pictures in film and TV. I came up with the idea of audio surveillance early on and we carried it through from the script into production; planting microphones around the location and letting the actors move in and out of range. For a first play, I lucked into a dream cast: Sarah Smart, Phil Glenister, Lesley Sharp, Sean Gallagher, Dan Ryan and Nicola Walker.
Bad Memories is a modern day ghost story starring Nicola Walker, Rupert Graves, Steven Mackintosh, Jana Carpenter and Anthony Calf. No medium does scary as well as radio. By the time we were into the final mix for this, I was directing Doctor Who in Cardiff so Karen Rose, the producer, emailed me the mix file. Even though I’d written and directed the thing, playing it aloud in a strange flat on my own cost me a good night’s sleep. If I was into awards, I’d tell you that Bad Memories won the Radio Drama Award for best use of sound. But I’m not, so I won’t. I’m currently working on turning this play into a movie.
The Listener was originally a movie idea which I was having a hard time working through. Then a last-minute slot came up on Radio 4 and they asked me if I had anything. Necessity being the mother of invention, I thought this would be a good opportunity to force myself to break the story. This is a sci-fi story, involving false memories, terrorism and surveillance. It stars Mark Bazeley, Indira Varma, Nicola Walker and Mark Lewis Jones.