In previous blog posts I’ve talked at length about the surreal, stressful and ultimately rewarding process that was putting on a play about one of my heroes. Springsteen was a bigger success than I could have hoped for and there was a definite sense of melancholy to the ending of the show, despite ongoing talks about whether we revive it at a bigger theatre somewhere down the line.
That melancholy might have been magnified due to how proud we all were of this show and the reception it got, but it’s hardly singular. Every play ending comes with a real feeling of loss, as the little family you’ve put together over the last few months separates and the thing that you’ve worked so hard on lingers only in memories and maybe a grainy video recording. And sure, the spontaneity and impermanence of theatre is part of what makes it special, but it’s hard not to feel like something you’ve put so much work into should live on in some form, able to be discovered by people who might have missed it the first time around. Telling everybody how good the show was is hardly the same as them experiencing it for themselves and reading the script will never compare to seeing something on stage.
Retrospectively, doing radio plays should have been a much more obvious choice than it was. Much of my time is divided between my theatre output with Bitten By Productions and my podcast work with Sanspants Radio, and so a marriage of the two would seem logical. And while it had been mentioned here and there in the past, everybody has lives, everybody is busy and it’s very hard to find the time to reconvene a cast for a day to record, harder still to find somebody willing to edit the whole thing together in a way that sounds as good as everyone’s work deserves.
When Chris Farrell, who played Bruce in our production, mentioned he had a sound engineer friend interested in moving into audiobooks and radio plays everything clicked into place very quickly. A diligent professional, Krisztian Pilisko oversaw a day of recording in my home studio and within a week and a half turned around an edit, interspersing the dialogue with appropriate background noises and, of course, the music of Bruce himself. And while I was excited to hear how the recorded version sounded, part of me was still unsure if it would work. After all, a play is at least partly a visual experience and we had transplanted ours pretty much verbatim from the stage version, with only a handful of allowances made for the new medium. Being new to the medium, us fucking this up was reasonably foreseeable.
And when I started listening this morning I was immediately unsure. Was it too talky? Was the dialogue intense enough? Should I have trimmed it down? Did the scenes transition smoothly enough? The first few minutes of listening I was somewhat on edge, unsure if it worked at all. Then, around halfway through scene two, I started to get in the swing of it. The end of that scene left me grinning. The end of scene three winded me. Scene four made me punch the air. Scene five made me walk outside to take a few deep breaths. And scene six had me actually wiping away tears.
Removed from a visual component, the play now has to rely on the vocals of the actors, and suddenly the subtleties and nuances of their performances become very, very clear. My writing has always been heavily dialogue and character driven, and in a weird way this format seems perfect for a play like this. We certainly lose some things due to not seeing the action, but I would argue we gain a huge amount from the forced emphasis on voices. The emotions almost feel more raw and intimate due to them being right there in your ears. It makes the play a more personal experience.
Finishing listening this morning left me in just about the best mood. Beyond the potential for Springsteen reaching a whole new audience, I started planning how many more of our shows we can immortalise in this way and how soon we can get them done. The Critic, The Lucas Conundrum, Regression and The Last Supper are prime candidates when it comes to older plays, and that doesn’t even touch on the upcoming shows we can do. Sean Carney’s Dracula, currently in rehearsal, will certainly get this treatment, along with a couple of other plays we have in the works, some written by me, others by other members of the Movie Maintenance crew. And the more we do, the more ambitious we can get. A full cast production of Boone Shepard is a mildly tantalising proposition.
Of course, if this is remotely the kind of thing that interests you then you’re probably wondering when they’ll be released. The tentative answer is hopefully soon. There’s a sense that we might want to get a few more in the bag before we commit to a steady release schedule (I’m hoping monthly). My impatient inclination is to get this out as soon as possible though, if nothing else to share with the world the amazing work Krisztian and the cast have done.
More than anything, this morning confirmed for me that radio plays are an exciting new opportunity for both Bitten By Productions and Sanspants Radio, as well as a fresh challenge. And while I probably have no business committing to more stuff right now, I am also terrible at approaching things with caution, responsibility or patience. So yeah, get ready for quite a few of these heading your way in the near future. I think they’ll be pretty good.
But for now check out the tiny excerpt below. It's actually eerie how much Chris sounds like Bruce here.
Writing words about writing words.