The Best Night of my WTC Life, by Mariele Runacre Temple


Launching The Wireless Theatre Company is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done. It’s introduced me to so many really amazing people, given me the opportunity to be involved in some incredible plays and despite being seriously hard work, it’s given me the time of my life. Perhaps the most enjoyable and most terrifying part, in equal measures, is staging our quarterly live recordings. I adore being in the studio, but coming from an acting background, there is nothing like the thrill of live theatre – especially when you are trying to capture the whole thing to send out to thousands of listener’s all over the world. The pressure is pretty intense, and I love it. I am so pleased we have still been able to create this, despite us being an audio internet based company.

Wireless Theatre Live is just another part of the company now, but our first live show wasn’t actually a live show, it was our “press launch” which took place just over a year after we had actually started the company, in 2008. It was a great time because we’d been running just long enough to realise that people were enjoying what we do. We’d hit the 1 million hits mark, which was amazing considering I started the website with the teeniest budget and a very vague idea of how it would go, and had secured a decent reputation as audio producers. It’s a testament to how many amazingly talented, hard working and interesting people we have on the team that, in just over a year, we had over thirty original productions, complied a brilliant team, worked with the fabulous Prunella Scales and gained an exciting and supportive patron – Nicholas Parsons.

We decided to host an evening of comedy and merriment at a modest London venue, with some examples of the audio plays we’d done so far, some sketch groups who have recorded with us and music and nibbles. We actually found a wonderful venue – The Headliners Comedy Club at the back of The George IV pub in Chiswick. To look at the pub you’d never expect that out the back is a 250 capacity space, with a lovely little stage and its own bar – they have stand up comedy performed there regularly and it was perfect for our launch. From my time working at The London Dungeon, I have been lucky enough to meet some of the funniest and talented people working on the London performance scene today (seriously, it’s a goldmine of actors, writers, comedians and singers – they should start an agency!) I knew that finding acts would be no problem, as well as a hillllarious compere to guide us through the evening’s performance with jokes galore and even the odd impression of clowns having sex. Yup. One of our new editors Joe Walters mixed together snippets from of our  plays into a sort of TV-esque montage with music. The first time I heard it played back, even on my crusty old stereo at home, I literally couldn’t contain my excitement. It sounded f*cking class (have a listen). It started with our standard “This is a download from The Wireless Theatre Company…” and I think as soon as I heard that being played out over the loud speakers, and all of those people went silent, I knew we’d always have to do more live shows. Joe’s montage would open the show, followed by compere Neil Frost and then each act (complimented with booze, of course). Somehow, through writing very polite letters, we managed to secure the attendance of both Nicholas Parsons AND Richard O’Brien (who subsequently donated his script Pig In Boots for our next live show!). Richard O’B agreed, not just to come along, but also to perform – actually perform. Suddenly this was becoming like an real proper press launch…as if!

I spend a lot of time publicising and promoting our live shows, organising rehearsals, venue, crew, actors etc – but on the day I think I am usually more of a hindrance than a help. Everyone knows what they’re doing – and they calmly get on with it. However I spend the entire day talking at a million miles an hour, walking very fast (sometimes round in circles) and asking “what’s happened there? Why is that like that? What’s going on here?”.  When I get told to shut up, I usually use that time to constructively consume a Red Bull and then continue to run around asking questions at the speed of light. The day of the launch was no different of course – worse in fact as I was so desperate to make a good impression to the press and the people from THE BBC who had agreed to come. I think we were all nervous, there was a lot of fast important walking around, important wires being taped down, important microphones being set up, important people warming up, technical run through’s, stops, starts, banners being put up and then taken down, people taking important calls, food being ordered, tables being laid. It felt electric – we were all buzzing with that infectious pre-show excitement which is part of the reason we all do it, surely? Once everything was all set up and we had some sort of semblance of calm, super cool Richard O’Brien turned up in a beige dress with a guitar case. I asked him what he’d be playing and he said “I’ll do a few country numbers I think – and it would be a shame, wouldn’t it, if I didn’t do the Time Warp?”…WOULDN’T IT!?!

As I am sure anyone who produces a show, or in fact hosts a party goes through the sheer terror, once it’s all set up, that nobody will come. So much work had gone into planning the day, I think I would have cried if the audience had consisted of my parents and the bar manager. However, I was literally overwhelmed by how many friends, family, fellow WTC people and press came to support us. And I have to say, we gave them a bloody good show – sometimes things just go right don’t they? The acts were great, the crowd were lively and responsive, Richard O’Brien sung actual songs from the Rocky Horror Show, Nicholas Parsons caused sketch group In The Meantime to corpse and everyone loved it, Stuart Price sailed us through technical perfection and everyone stayed for plenty of drinks for the summer’s evening after the show. The venue looked amazing with my beloved Wireless Theatre Company banners which were kindly made for us by Eye Catching Design (they do sets don’t you know…) and over 200 people crammed into the venue. The atmosphere was electric.  I’d like to say I have definitely managed to calm those nerves since those days…but I am not sure I really can. You’d have to ask Matt? TK?Gareth? Jack? It’s ok. They’re all calm, I can be manic can’t I?

The launch was alive and thrilling and everything that theatre should be, as well as celebrating everything that’s different and unusal about WTC.  It was the start of Wireless Theatre LIVE, which has become a huge, exhilarating and ground breaking part of what we do. We now produce live shows in theatre’s all over London, including the West End. We have a professional sound and lighting team – all of whom are passionate about live radio drama and about what we can do next and we have a team of incredible writers who understand just how to create scripts designed for live radio recordings.

Do excuse my somewhat gushy blog – I am not a frequent blogger, but I thought I would tell you about the best night of my life.


WTC has two live shows coming up – HELP! I’m a Prisoner in a Toothpaste Factory by John Antrobus is a kids show, and will be recorded at The Leicester Square Theatre’s main house at 2.30pm on 30th July.

Sherlock Holmes Strikes Back!by Peter Davis and Matthew Woodcock, will be recorded for one night only at The Etcetra Theatre as part of The Camden Fringe Festival on the 16th August at 7.30pm.

Turning the Memories, By Gareth Brownbill

I can’t believe it’s almost been two years since Turning the Tide was first launched onto an unsuspecting public. It was a dream come true for me, the result of a bet I made with myself to finish a forty five minute radio drama, just to see if I could.

The fact it had to be a radio drama was no accident. I’d been fascinated by radio comedy and drama for years. As a teenager, I discovered a vinyl Aladdin’s Cave in Liverpool Central Library, where the Goons, Monty Python, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore and many others lay in wait for me to unearth their comic gold. When I went to drama school it was always the radio classes that held my attention the most. I wasn’t surprised at all when I started writing and thought that trying my hand at an audio play would be a good idea.

The problem was, of course, I needed a story.

My only other attempt at writing anything for radio was a half-hour comedy for a BBC scriptwriting competition. Looking back, I’m not even sure if the piece I finished covered the full thirty minutes requirement but I sent it to the BBC convinced it was the best script in the world.

Fortunately, no copies survive today. I think it’s just as well.

By the way, I didn’t win!

Fast forward many years later to summer 2003 and I was rehearsing a production of Ira Levin’s Deathtrap. It was while we were taking a break that I suddenly had an idea for a scene; just a scene, nothing more. When I got home I started writing and finished five pages of A4. Just like that. I was quite pleased with it. It described a confrontation between a headmaster, and a father angry that his son had been suspended for fighting a bully.

I had a scene in the bag.

Over the next couple of years I worked on further scenes whenever I got the chance. I opened with a short monologue for the father character (Larry), then wrote a scene where he’s confronted by a neighbour over a parking space. This was loosely inspired by an incident that actually happened to me. How many times have we all gone over an incident in our heads, imagining how much better we could have dealt with it? It lead to me repeating the first part of the scene, then carrying on with the father imagining that he puts the neighbour in his place. Of course, this is only in his mind.

To be honest, at this stage in the writing process it was just nice to have ideas for scenes that could be put down on paper. I decided to make a deal with myself. I would try to complete a forty five minute radio drama, just for the hell of it. I wasn’t following any rules, just a gut instinct that the scenes and subject matter I’d written about so far might be something people would like to listen to. I wrote up scenes as ideas came to me, in no particular order, and it became fascinating to build up a gallery of characters and a storyline that linked them all together. The title for the play came from a movie trailer for J R R Tolkien’s The Two Towers, and a line spoken by Gandalf the White: “I come back to you now, at the turning of the tide.” It seemed like a good title for a play about a man learning to stand up for himself.

There did come a point when the play was two-thirds finished that the gears of motivation ground to a halt. The plot was completed, all I had to do was write the unfinished scenes, but I simply couldn’t continue. I was so pleased with what had been written so far that I didn’t want to carry on and ruin it. For a while, it looked like things would stay that way, and I comforted myself with the thought that it was unlikely to get produced anyway. What were the chances of that happening?

It was only when a friend sent me a link to a writers website that I saw an interview with the Wireless Theatre Company. It seemed to be just what I was looking for – almost too good to be true: an independent company of professionals that produced their own audio dramas. I had nothing to lose by getting in touch and asking if my script would be read. The response was swift: send it to us when it’s finished and we’ll let you know what we think. How could I not attempt to finish it now?

Writing the final scenes was nowhere near as difficult as I had anticipated. I couldn’t understand what had held me back for so long. I emailed a completed script to WTC and didn’t have to wait long for a response. They liked it! The forty five minute challenge I had made with myself was going to be produced. A read-through with the performers was an exhilarating if strange experience (not reading the script as an actor, for once) and apart from minor tweaks to the script it was recorded as written: a completely different experience to a stage play that I wrote (but that’s another blog!).

Two years later it still seems incredible that my hastily scribbled first scene grew into a full length, professionally produced drama. I more than made the forty five minute target: the final running time for the play was just over an hour, and I can remember listening to it for the first time with an elated mix of nervous pride and thinking, “Bloody hell, I wrote this!!” I never really got the chance to thank everyone properly so here, in writing, to Mariele, Fran, Joe and a terrific group of actors I offer my very grateful thanks. You were all great.

And the future? Well, I had this great idea for a scene the other day…

Working with Mary, by Jenny Runacre

Jenny Runacre

We have just released a great new interview with actress Mary Tamm, conducted by her friend and fellow actress Jenny Runacre. During the interview they talk a bit about their time working together. Here is some more about it, from Jenny’s point of view…

I first got to know Mary Tamm as a friend about 1976 when we were both cast in a film to be shot in Greece.  The film was called ‘The Doubt’ and it was written and going to be directed by a Greek director, who shall be nameless at this point!  The story was about two girls who were both having an affair with the same man – we were going to be paid in instalments and wereto spend at least 6 weeks filming in the sunshine in Greece.  Christopher Plummer was going to be the star.

So, extremely excited and looking forward to filming we duly flew off and were put up in a delightful small hotel in Athens.   It was end of May/early June – the best time to be in Greece – the weather was perfect and the city of Athens was buzzing.  We met the small crew and began the shoot.  Unfortunately filming did not go smoothly – we seemed to record endless sequences of me or Mary, either stuck in a lift, or great close-ups of us doing our make- up.  There was absolutely no sign of ChristopherPlummer, however we were constantly assured that he was on his way. We also had to inexplicably keep moving hotels!

We had received our first instalment of money and therefore weren’t too worried, but gradually the filming slowed down to almost non-existent levels and then it finally stopped.   We were told that there would be a short ‘break’ in filming, so we decided to go off to the Greek Islands – named Mykonos – where we had a decidedly good time and totally forgot that we were even supposed to be filming! We spent all day swimming and sunbathing and most evenings eating and partying. However, eventually we began to realise that things were not right, so we made our way back to Athens to try and find out what was going on.  We couldn’t find our director anywhere!  The only person we could contact was a sort of administrative assistant that he had in tow, who didn’t seem to know what was going on either.    We hung around for a few more days, not willing to accept that there was probably not going to be a film made that year, and then decided that enough was enough and we were going to go back to London.  This presented us with another problem, because by this time the film money had run out and we were left with nothing to pay our final hotel bills with  or our air tickets back home!

After a great deal of kerfuffle, we both managed to scrape enough money together to get back in one piece, without angry hotel managers chasing us for cash, and we arrived back in London sun-tanned, but broke.

The next time I worked with Mary was on a play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder called ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant’.  It was to run at the New End Theatre in Hampstead and directed by Robert Walker (who subsequently made a name for himself as a TV director).  The French actress DelphineSeyrig who had made the classic French movie ‘Last Summer inMarienbad’ and who had a great arty following, took the starring role.  The summer that year was extremely hot, the New End Theatre is incredibly small and was packed out every night.   The play got excellent reviews and the run was extended.  We had David Hockney in the audience and other members of the art cognoscenti.  We had a great time as usual, out every night in all the little restaurants in Hampstead and generally having a great time.   Also in the cast was Angela PleasanceDonald Pleasance’s daughter.  She played the ‘maid’ and she had no lines whatsoever.  Despite this, she managed to upstage us all every night by her wonderful facial expressions, all totally in character!  Her Dad had taught her all he knew.

I became quite good friends with Delphine as she and I shared a dressing room.  She was an ardent feminist and she asked  me to go with her to visit the Refuge Centre in Chiswick that Erin Pizzey had set up for victims of domestic violence – Delphine wanted to set up a similar centre in Paris.    I remember the visit being a sombre experience.

Someone had also given me a copy of the book Scum Manifesto written by Valerie Solanas  (she was the woman who later made a murder attempt on Andy Warhol) which I hadn’t yet read and which was very difficult to get hold of.  Delphine asked if she could borrow it and return the copy to me from Paris.  I never got the book back and consequently have never read it!  Strangely enough years later when I was practising a lot of yoga, a very prestigious yoga teacher came to London to conduct some special workshops.  After I had attended a couple of these workshops – he said to me, ‘you don’t recognise me do you Jenny’ and he turned out to be the Assistant Stage Manager of the New End Theatre on the production of Petra Von Kant!  We have been friends ever since.

Mary and I had an incredibly fun time on Petra Von Kant and after that became very firm friends and as you can hear in the interview, we are still friends now.


Jamie Egerton

Turning on the TV on Thursday I saw BBC Breakfast running a story about Steven Moffat commenting that, after having invited a number of press and fans to the screening of the opening two-parter for the current series of Doctor Who, he’d politely requested, given the twists and turns, that no-one there was to reveal the secrets online or in print. And the press complied, 99.9% of the fans complied. Yet there was one person who decided they knew better and proceeded to post all the content of the episodes in, using Mr Moffat’s words, the “most ham-fisted English you can imagine and put it on the Internet… I just hope that guy never watches my show again, because that’s a horrific thing to do. It is exactly like that boring man in the pub, who waits until you’ve nearly finished your joke and jumps in with the punch line, and gets it slightly wrong. You hate that guy, you just hate those guys too – can you imagine how much I hate them?”

Strong words, possibly “horrific” and “hate” are too strong and he may, to again use his words later on, admit that he came across “as a little grumpy”. Yet I fully sympathise with him, especially when I go online and read over half of posters on various internet forums responding with, “well, sorry, what did he expect, when he invited fans along,” “what does he expect, this is the 21st Century, spoilers are a way of life now?” It is attitudes like that, while I fully acknowledge the Internet Spoiler Genie is out long out of the bottle, which breaks my heart as a writer.

Here’s the rub. Let’s be the audience for a moment – the people who are about to receive their brand new story, probably one you’ve chosen, hopefully full of twists and turns. Yet, sometimes, there will be people don’t think about the work that has gone into writing you, the viewer or listener, that brand new tale and, having seen it first or being involved, may start to give things away. They may do this because they enjoyed it so much and do it out of enthusiasm, as they’re bursting to share. Sometimes, by sheer mistake – which I’ve done myself – you let slip something in front of someone and you genuinely see their hearts sink. Twice now, I’ve done this and still feel guilty about it, because it’s not my right to take away an experience they could have enjoyed.  And when a story, somehow in this 21st Century world of spoilers, pulls a pure, story-telling coup – yes, it can happen – your heart leaps in your mouth and it is a moment that will be burnt on your brain and into your imagination forever. There is still one M. Night Shyamalan film – no, not The Sixth Sense – where the twist is SO BRIILIANT in terms of story-telling, I still refuse to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it; so much so, I won’t name that film here. But sometimes, just sometimes… you’ll meet people maliciously enjoy spoiling the surprises, because they know full well it will get them some of that attention they crave.

Now for the other side of the fence. As a writer, I want to tell engaging, exciting and interesting stories. Preferably with monsters. In writing or co-writing a script, there will be, genuinely, hours, days and weeks poured over the structure, story and dialogue, grammar, finding the moments where it all moves on from A to B, to help tell you a tale we want you to enjoy. And I will also, if it serves the story, work to produce a genuine surprise or two. Because I know the beauty of the effect it can have on you, faithful listener.

I can point to two examples. Firstly, The Strange Case Of Springheel’d Jack. It’s a serial – Wireless’s first, hurrah! – which relies on good, old-fashioned cliff-hangers. The hero in danger! How will he escape from this one? Protecting them is, in my mind, vital to your enjoyment of the story (although I’m slightly aware the resolution has been a little delayed in coming. It’s nearly here folks! It’s been sent for scoring and everything!). Now, if you knew how a) it was going to end, and b) also knew *if* poor Constable Smith was going to escape death, would you enjoy the wait so much? The answer, I guarantee you, is no.

And yet! The cliff-hangers may not be the only surprises left to come within the story. And you would not believe the disagreements and debates Rob and I have about how much to give away. I would honestly prefer to drop any story on you completely cold – which I’m aware, I cannot do. So, the next question is, where do you draw the line? How many teasers do you give to entice people to listen, yet not allow you to completely join the dots? Ultimately, we made our choices about what we want you to know, the cast and crew know how much they should and shouldn’t tell, all to help you want to listen and then to enjoy the story. We’ve agonised over those choices. Can you imagine how much it could break our hearts if someone involved or outside the production got more detailed information and released it somewhere? So much hard work, energy, money (yes, I said it), talent and time, ruined in a click and paste for many, many more people.

The final evidence for the Defence, m’lud. There is one play on the Wireless Theatre site, that when it was pitched, suggested the biggest surprise of all. So much so, I won’t tell you which one it is, I hope you’ll find it yourself by accident one day. Those involved or many who’ve heard it will know to what play I referred to. The script made it clear, from day one, in BIG RED LETTERS, that we had to maintain secrecy to this to work. Everyone agreed and obliged magnificently. However, during the frail process of casting and rehearsing, I turned grey, especially when, somehow various people from the audience managed to end up present during the final rehearsals before recording. Yet, despite this (luckily, nobody who shouldn’t have been there seemed to notice as I ushered them away quickly), everyone we entrusted worked hard and pulled it off. Cue a production that managed to execute a genuine shock – and I will promise you, those who were there told me that they will never forget that moment.

Maybe you have some thoughts about we can defeat the Evil Spoiler Genie of the Internets? All I will say is this: next time you see a link that says ‘Spoiler Click HERE!’, the next time you’re tempted to go online and Google sites in a bid to discover the resolution to a cliff-hanger, or even if you’re in a privileged position of knowing something and you’re bursting to tell, I’m going to ask you – please leave it alone. I know how hard the temptation is, but remember to respect what the writers, actors, producers and directors have set out to achieve. You may just find your life a little bit richer for ignoring that Genie running loose around the Internet.

Springheel’d Jack Episode II will be released this summer.

Artwork by Jamie Egerton.

Attack The Block, by Kevin Haney


I am an actor and comedian who has been doing the ‘Londonthing’ for the last decade. I am also a writer. It’s this aspect of my career that has forced me to ask a few questions recently. Is there any originality left in my head? I don’t know. Was there ever any originality in my head in the first place? Actually, let’s open this up. Is there anything, artistically, original that hasn’t been written, devised or performed? Of course, it’s just NOT in my head.

A well informed writer could be restricted by the information that many would deem liberating. The more you know about the present artistic climate, the more you run the risk of being influenced by it. If an original idea pops into your head, independent of any influence, it’s only a matter of time until someone turns up and throws a spanner in your works by telling you that it’s been done already.

So, what can a writer do if they hit a block? In the past, many would have said that the best way to get through a block would be to see as much, read as much and participate in as much as possible. This could then breed inspiration. That inspiration would then fuel their quest to create something new and artistically pure. It’s been born out of your own experiences. You’re the only one that occupies your own thoughts; you’re the only person that sees the world through your eyes. So, when you’re informed by a fellow artist that they had a similar idea once or that Chris Morris did the same thing back in the mid nineties you can’t be blamed for abandoning all hope of ever breaking this stupid rut you now find yourself in.

I’ll wait it out. After all, the next original idea could be but a few key strokes away. But, by original idea, do I mean my own interpretation of the last play / film / book / song from which I happened to draw any kind of inspiration? Maybe I can use this song at the start of the piece, it sounds deep. People might think that the play is deep. They might think that I’m deep too. Perhaps I’ll be commissioned to write the next thought provoking piece of fringe theatre, from somebody else’s ideas. Maybe this will break the block. It doesn’t matter if it’d a dud. I just need to break the block!

All I need to do is stay focused long enough to get a first draft. Once the first draft is out of the way, its plain sailing. Just need to keep my focus, not let it stray. Don’t watch any television, or read anything. Just stick with it. Maybe, put a bit of instrumental music on to drive me. No lyrics, something without an agenda. It’ll get the creative juices flowing without subconsciously influencing me to write a piece of political theatre. Or, worse, a romance.

I have spent a lot of my recent years writing sketch comedy. The block doesn’t seem to apply here. I find it very easy to write. This must be due to the fact that you only need a goldfish’s attention span to finish it. Twenty pages into a play I started writing about two female protagonists and the pain inflicted upon them when they are accused of having communist ties, soon sidelined for a three page piece of character comedy which loses steam half way through page one soon after the punch line is delivered (two pages earlier than the end of the sketch). Well it’s not really that bad (I’d never write character comedy) but it’s not far off. Truth be told, I seem to be quite successful when it comes to getting a story, character and conclusion across in a very short amount of time. I even tried applying this rule to the block. I’ll write it scene by scene. “Like sketches. A series of sketches” I thought. After all, plays are pretty much just a series of scenes that run, one after the other, like a sketch show, for ninety minutes. All I need to do is take out the punch lines and keep the same characters for the duration. I know exactly how to start. After I plot my scene timeline I’ll write the central scene and construct the play around that. That’ll be the key to my all important first draft, then it’s plain sailing – so I’ve heard.

The feedback I got from my polite fellow artists included: “It seems quite fragmented” (What, as if it were a sketch show?) “The through line seems contrived” (What, as if I’ve loosely threaded a series of sketches together?) “The characters motivations are inconsistent” (What, as if, at one point, the characters had multiple motivations in four minute bursts?) My less polite critics informed me that a moment in the middle was good but the scenes around it gave the impression that I had abandoned the standard rules of writing a play and attempted to apply a formula I had derived from my years writing sketch comedy. (What do they know?)

It was an experiment. The results are conclusive, when applied to me. But that doesn’t mean it will not work for someone else. That’s the beauty of creating text. Writing and devising pieces of theatre or entertainment is unique to each mind. There are no rules to creation. No matter how well trained or novice, a good idea is a good idea and all you need is the power to harness it and the focus to put it on the page. Leave it to the director, producer and cast to interpret in any way they feel, safe in the knowledge that you put it out there for them to mess with.

I’m still in my block – or maybe I’ve just run out of ideas. I’d better get out there to see and experience as much of the good, bad and the mediocre as possible. This could generate the next idea to squander or soar with. That’s the best thing about being a writer, no matter how successful. The potential to create anything at anytime and sometimes you even get paid for it. Just keep writing and attack the block. Good writers have written as much crap as they have quality, it’s how you grow. I’ll end on that. I need to go and cash a small royalty cheque from that T.I.E. panto I wrote in 2005.

Fancy a Bit of Binaural? By Ross Burman (WTC Editor)


Ears are funny things.  Look at them, go on, look:  Little bits of gristle flapping in the wind.  Surely they can’t be there for decoration?  That would remove all doubt against the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient God.  Actually, the pinnae (as they are known) are highly evolved sound processors, focussing and transmogrifying sound as it hits your ears.  Like wine in the mouth of a sommelier, sound is washed around the ridges and folds of the outer ear.  It is then directed down the ear canal to the ear drum, vibrating the hammer, anvil and stirrup (the smallest bones in the human body) which in turn transmit information to the cochlea which finally translates the sounds for the brain.

The result of this premixing by the pinnae is that the sound fired into the holes on either side of the head have all manner of directional information encoded into it.  Close your eyes for a second and have someone click their fingers around your head.  Thanks to those ear flaps you’ll be able to pinpoint the whereabouts of the clicks.

You are immersed in a world of sound.  Binaural attempts to replicate this.

Now, your normal, everyday stereo reproduction requires you to use your own pinnae to locate sounds from two speakers some distance away.  The upshot of this is similar to going to the cinema:  a flat image projected in front of you, the audience, sitting in a darkened room.  You are separated from the action, a detached observer.  Binaural recording, by contrast, drops you in the middle of the action by feeding sound, already ‘pinnae-encoded’ directly into the ear canal.  This is why binaural recordings should only be listened to on headphones, bypassing your own pinnae.

Well, that’s all very well, but how are these recordings made?  Normally for radio drama, a couple of microphones (one for each stereo channel) are set up and the actors play to these as if they were the audience.  With binaural recording, the microphones are setup so each acts as an ear canal.  Sometimes these mics are affixed to a real head (an actor in the play) or to a dummy head the same size and density as a human head (‘want to lose twelve pounds of unsightly fat?’  once asked David Frost, ‘then cut off your own head!’).  This dummy head also, importantly, has its own pinnae.

But wait a minute, because with a binaural recording you are listening to post-pinnae-encoded information.  It’s not your ears you’re hearing through.  It’s not even your head.  When you are listening to a binaural play, you’re not just ‘in’ the play; you’re inhabiting someone’s head.

Hold that thought while you’re listening to Gareth Parker’s ‘Autopsy’.

Waging War on the Audience. By Stephen Hill


Here’s a bit of a conversation for ya -

Person 1- hello friend/relative/colleague I’m currently promoting my play/gig/show/performance that I will be appearing in and was wondering if YOU would be interested in coming to see it?

Person 2 – gosh! How wonderful! I’d love to see you, a friend/relative/colleague of mine, express yourself creatively in a performance medium such as a play/gig/show/performance. Count me in!

Person 1 – excellent! Here is the time and date. I look forward to seeing you at my event.
Person 2 – and I in turn look forward to being there… There is just one other thing I’d like to clarify.

Person 1 – of course. I’d be happy to answer any questions about my performance.

Person 2 – good. Well I was just wondering if it would be acceptable for me to arrive late, having had too much to drink, cause an unsettling commotion on said arrival, pay no attention to the performance, talk to my friends, pull focus from the performers, comment loudly on what is going on with no courtesy of other audience members, try to impose my own agenda upon a night which is not about me in the slightest and then tell everyone afterwards that it was a worthless pile of nonsense?

Person 1 – that would be totally acceptable. In fact it would benefit the night as a whole. Do you need comps?

This is a conversation I’ve never heard but am sure must take place regularly. How else to explain the amount of ignorant, heck ling arsehole audience members that frequent every theatre, cinema, comedy club and music venue in the country.

Let’s get one thing clear. If you, as an audience member, do not give full attention to an artist on-stage you have no right, literally no right, to criticise them in any way. As far as I am concerned the success of a performance is split 50/50 in terms of artist and audience member. Yes, it is the artists duty to drive the show on and keep the audience gripped and interested. But the audience has to be receptive, primed to give the performer their approval to continue with the same momentum. If you aren’t listening, aren’t interested then why the hell should they be interested in entertaining you? Why shouldn’t they think “what’s the point?” And go through the motions. That’s true of the psychological effects of any relationship bearing that same dynamic. One tries hard as hell to please he who cannot be sated until they lose the will and give up. Is that solely their fault? No, clearly not. Does it make them talentless, or worthless? Again, no it doesn’t.

Disinterest can kill the mood, if you like, but to actually chirp up, make yourself the centre of attention, heckle essentially, is simply the worst thing you can do to suck any kind of momentum and feeling of professionalism from a piece of work. Having done stand up for the last five years I have had my fair share of hecklers. Some, I might have asked for. Some are just empty headed cretins. What’s amazing is the fact that they think they are helping. Too many times to recall I’ve had my nemesis tell me how much fun they’ve had ruining my set and saying “I helped you out didn’t I mate! We had a laugh!” No. And if you think otherwise then think about doing the same thing during a wedding ceremony as the happy couple took their vows or as someone gave a eulogy at a funeral. You wouldn’t. Unless you were a massive cock.

I’m not saying everything deserves a standing ovation and back slapping all round for the folks involved just by deciding to get up on that big stage all by their little selves. You big bwave soldiers you! It doesn’t, some things are utter drivel and you can’t help being bored and pissed off (I sat through Stephen K Amos in Edinburgh once and the last half hour was filled with me looking around for heavy stuff that might fall on me and stop the perfomance. Thus achieving martyrdom). Fair enough. Leave or sit there and suffer it. As long as you don’t find it offensive then there is no need to start a fight with it is there? No. Good. Glad we agreed.

Don’t feel like this has been an attack. Quite the opposite, what I’m saying is – audiences are important. Just as important as those on stage. Those egomanical, self important folks up there need YOU if they are going to perform to their maximum potential. So, for me, give them a break… And don’t rustle sweets in the cinema. Yeah they can’t hear it. But I can. There’s a good audience member.

Derek Jarman, Jubilee and Me. By Jenny Runacre


Last week there was a showing of Jubilee by Derek Jarman, at the newly launched Society Film Club, which takes place every Monday in the basement cinema of the Sanctum Soho Hotel.

Love Brandish who runs the Club asked me if I would be willing to go along and do a question and answer session after the showing of the film. He told me Adam Ant would be there too and was going to sing and play guitar afterwards.  So on Monday off I went to the showing, which turned out to be a very glamorous event!

Photo (c) Dafydd Jones –

After watching  ‘Jubilee’, which I must confess, I hadn’t seen for some time – the question and answer session began and of course, it brought back a flood of memories of filming with Derek Jarman and the rest of the cast.

I had known Derek for quite a while before I worked on ‘Jubilee’ – I had met him through Andrew Logan, a friend of mine and I had in-fact already been in one of the original Super 8 films that Derek made, which had been shot at the home/studio of fashion designer Rae Spencer-Cullen. When Derek had the idea of making ‘Jubilee’ – he asked me if I would be interested in working on it, of course I was!

Derek had seen Adam Ant walking down London’s Kings Road in a dirty white shirt ripped to show the word “Fuck” that Jordan had carved on his back with a razor blade! Adam had been on the way to Seditionaries – the shop owned by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren– around which the whole punk movement had blossomed.  Derek had immediately asked him to be in the film.  Derek and I had both seen one of the very first ever Sex Pistols concerts performed on stage, during which Johnny Rotten had turned his back on the audience growling and spitting into the microphone and where Jordan and Vivienne Westwood had both thrown themselves about with wild abandon hurling insults at the audience and the band.  Jordan had on her geometrical makeup with a great mauve swath of colour across her face and her bondage shoes as she gyrated and bad mouthed her way onto stage, where she and Johnny Rotten proceeded to strip.  This was on Valentines Day 1976 at our mutual friend Andrew Logan’s studio, and Derek filmed the whole event on his Super 8 camera.

I had several pre-production meetings with Derek discussing various options regarding my dual roles of Bod (queen of the anarchists) and Queen Elizabeth 1st of England, whose spirit comes back, together with her Court Astrologer, John Dee (played by Richard O’Brien, the creator of The Rocky Horror Show) to see the state of her beloved England in the “shadow of her time”.  And of course it is in a state – a bitter wind is blowing through the times, the economy is in free fall, punks are running wild and anarchy is rife!  Sound familiar?

England was indeed in a great state of change in the mid 70’s –  the, by now comatose, hippies had had the rug pulled from under their feet by a gang of King’s Road fashion anarchists who called themselves Punks.  These fashionista punks, originally led by Vivienne Westwood and her husband Malcolm McClaren, all gravitated to their King’s Road shop.  And it was here the music business found them to create yet another working class myth full of working class heroes.

Vivienne was reputed to have hated ‘Jubilee’, in fact she made a t-shirt lambasting everyone connected with it, particularly Derek and me.  The only people she liked were Adam and Jordan.  I managed to get a t-shirt for myself and wore it with pride.

Derek had a large studio in Butler’s Wharf which was at Shad Thames (now full of office buildings) and most of the meetings were there.  All along the river the property developers were active and throughout 1977 the warehouses, mostly inhabited by struggling artists, continued to mysteriously go up in flames.  Artists were throwing original work out of windows in the hope of saving at least some of it.  Diane Logan – Andrew Logan’s sister in law, who was herself an established hat designer – lost all her back collections of hats!  The very desolation of the area, fringed with rotting estates and closed shops mirrored to perfection the desolation Derek was portraying.  Derek’s studio was large and stark, with no TV or other modern conveniences, all the rooms knocked into one large space – including the toilet – which stood boldly naked and in solitary splendour on a small platform, completely unadorned by any kind of modest screen, in the very middle of the room!  And that was how you had to use it – needless to say lots of people sat there cross-legged!

Derek was a great historian, having taken a degree in History at Kings College, London, along with a subsequent Art degree at the Slade College of Art. He particularly liked Elizabethan history and knew an enormous amount about it, especially the Court Astrologer John Dee.Derek knew masses of information about the language of flowers and herbs and he brought all this knowledge to the film.

I felt I knew how to play Queen Elizabeth fairly well, but the character of Bod, who represented anarchy and revolution and whose name was indeed a shortened version of Boadicea, was more of a challenge.  We didn’t really have much rehearsal, we would just rehearse before the take but Derek and I spent hours talking about the characters and how they would behave and what would happen to Bod at the end of the movie.  Once we decided on Bod’s outfit –  the character slipped into place.

We started filming in a space at Shad Thames – this space had been built and painted and made into an anarchic rubbish strewn, graffiti covered set by a young film student called John Maybury, who subsequently went on to become the well-known film director of films such as ‘Love is the Devil’ a much acclaimed film about Frances Bacon and ‘The Edge of Love’ which was about the ménage a trois in the life of Dylan Thomas.  John working together with Kenny Morris, the drummer of The Banshees, built the set in the building next door to Derek’s studio with rubbish which they brought in from skips.

The first scene we shot was one well into the film, when Toyah Willcox supposedly carves into my back with a knife.  The scene looks so real I can hardly look at it now, but in fact it was a trick knife that pushed up and coloured red liquid came out of it.  Toyah had been working at The National Theatre and was tipped as a red hot young actress – at this point she hadn’t made her name as a singer although she did have her own band and played live gigs. Also in this scene is Jordan - who gives a great performance as herself,  HermineDemoriane - who was a French tightrope walker and chanteuse as well as Karl Johnson and Ian Charleson.  This was a very difficult scene to do, both acting wise  (with my back being cut up) and the fact that it was the first scene to be shot in the film. I was also half-naked.  To make matters worse a really fit and handsome young man who was acting as a “runner” on the film had the youthful cheek to tell me that I sounded as if I was reading my lines!  Not a good way to build confidence on the first day of a shoot!

As the shooting progressed we all started to visibly relax. The locations were the streets and warehouses around where Derek lived, we all knew them quite well and many of the cast knew each other. It was shot in a fantasy documentary mode that was very much Derek’s own way of filming and it mixed the real with the fictional.  Derek was always calm to work with and the film progressed fairly smoothly despite the fact the technical resources were somewhat sparse as we were working on such a tight budget. Nevertheless we all worked very hard and enthusiastically and the film was made relatively quickly (shooting went from late June to mid August).

There was also the constant worry that the filming would be stopped, that the authorities would halt proceedings because proper permission to film had never been obtained.  We did not even have permission for the scene that is shot in front of Westminster Cathedral in Victoria, we arrived extremely early in the morning about 6am as soon as it was light enough to film,  shot the scene in a few minutes and then all disappeared!

In fact, the only scene where we really let our hair down and partied was in the final seething, writhing scene which was largely choreographed by Lindsay Kemp and is supposed to be set in the bowels of Westminster Cathedral but it is in fact set in the Catacombs Club just off the Fulham Road.

The whole of this scene was acted exclusively by friends (apart from Lindsey Kemp’s own dance troupe) and of course blind Orlando who gives a riveting performance as Borgia Ginz the music impresario.   The scene lasted all day and was fuelled by such vast quantities of drink and drugs that by the time a wrap was called most of the cast needed a day or two to recover.  It was in this scene that Donald, a young American actor who was playing the role of a policeman in the film, had to have a fight with Adam Ant.  Donald was so drunk (as everyone had been drinking all day) and Derek was so anxious to make the film look authentic that Adam was nearly knocked out.

After that we had to go on location to Dorset to record the final scenes of the film.   The weather was suddenly glorious and as we drove down we felt as if we were going on holiday.  I was lucky enough to drive down in Mody Schreiber’s fathers’ Rolls Royce together with Jordan, Little Nell and Toyah.  Of course Mody (who was an Executive Producer on the film) drove and the car, which was also to be used in filming the scene where the gang of girls together with Borgia Ginz arrive at Borgia’s country pad, purred along in the sunshine.

Our destination was that of Longleat where Jordan was filmed confronting a rhinoceros. One of the final scenes in the film is set within the great House which Borgia Ginz shares with the retired Hitler, who has moved there because “people here are much to dozy to notice me, and if they did, much too polite to say anything”.  Dorset was a great break and we stayed there to film the final scene which was filmed at Dancing Ledge – when Queen Elizabeth and John Dee walk along the cliff path into a darkening sky.

The really fun time happened after the filming of ‘Jubilee’ when all the footage was firmly in the can.  The premiere, at The Gate 2 Cinema, was extremely exciting although it opened to mixed reviews – some declaring it brilliant, others hating it.

We had such fun publicising it – driving down to the Cannes Film Festival in my old Renault car, (where ‘Jubilee’ was in competition in the Fringe Festival)  stopping off in Paris to see the Caravaggio painting of the Madonna in the Louvre – from which we were all asked to leave purely because of the way Jordan was dressed, my car breaking down just before we reached Cannes and being towed ignominiously into the city, being robbed as soon as we arrived in our hotel, strolling along the Croissette and driving to Antibes, we had such a great time  – but that’s another story.

My Favourite Play, By Fran Kirkham


I consider myself a Wireless Theatre Company stalwart. And to be honest, I’m not sure the word stalwart quite sums up what we have been through over the past few years. I joined at the start of 2008 and was probably the first outsider to enter the WTC frame, someone brought in not as a helpful friend but as a necessary assistant in the running of what was becoming a big project. Since then, I have worked on countless plays as producer, director, writer, runner and general bod and have learned more than I ever imagined. We are a small team and have shared many experiences, from plays that were hugely ambitious and wide-ranging, plays where the whole cast and crew never stopped laughing, plays that have caused us all sleepless nights and stressful days, live productions and the many new challenges they created, educational pieces, and even (occasionally) simple, smooth-running productions that went without a hitch. We’ve worked with so many interesting, talented, creative types and there has been the odd difficult encounter or reliability mishap leaving us in a state of plain and simple panic. It’s been quite a ride.

But I think my favourite memory has to be one of the first plays I worked on, which remains a firm favourite. The Youth of Old Age by Stuart Price is a fairly outrageous portrayal of life in the upper classes, completely un-PC, hilariously over the top and featuring some of the funniest lines of any of our comedies. It was also our first real claim to fame, as the legendary Prunella Scales agreed to play the sharp-tongued lead. I remember a general feeling of fear that we needed to really pull this out of the bag and show her what a professional outfit we were. Endless e-mails went back and forth between myself, director/writer Stuart and WTC head Mariele. We made a concerted effort to be organised, planning taxis, food and even a production script which we turned inside out to present Pru with only her scenes highlighted to help her in the studio. It was going to run like clockwork.

Obviously, pretty much every part of these plans went wrong. From taxis that didn’t show up to Pru hating the production script and deciding (wisely) to stick with her own slightly battered version. And it really goes to prove the old saying about the best laid plans… The day did not go as we had carefully strategised but it worked brilliantly anyway. Pru was a true pro and however casual or forgetful she might be chatting in the side room, when the tape was rolling, she was the best I’ve ever seen. She was friendly and funny and happy to take direction from Stuart who I’m pretty sure was browning his pants every time he suggested something. Our lovely studio engineer Matt at Quince Studios in Marylebone helped create a great atmosphere and we all had a hugely enjoyable time. The final product is some of the finest audio comedy I’ve ever heard and I am so proud to have been a part of it. Great performances from the whole cast, including Pru of course, but by no means her alone. WTC regular Knight Mantellgives a standout turn as the long-suffering butler, and the rest of the cast are also on top form. Fantastic editing and original music complete the play, and it is in my humble opinion so far out of the league of pretty much everything I’ve heard on the BBC recently. For me this play encapsulates the value of audio theatre and shows just how important it is for us to fight to keep this unique medium alive. Moments like this make the sleepless nights completely worth it.

The Youth of Old Age is available to download for free from here

Quince Studios

Sold Into Knavery, by Ann Theato


I’m up for sale on eBay.  Well, that is to say… I was. I’ve now been sold for three pounds ninety five. Plus postage.

I’ve just Googled myself.  Well, I’ve got a lot of time on my hands and no, they haven’t turned hairy (unlike the lady I once read about in Woman’s Own who had the misfortune to grow pubic hair on the base of her thumb.  It’s true.  A horrendous potato-boiling accident resulted in the immediate need for a skin graft taken from her inner thigh by an over enthusiastic plastic surgeon.).   But I digress.

As we are all now a nation of spies, I like to indulge occasionally in self-incriminatory clandestine espionage – I look myself up on the Internet.  Just for fun you understand.  Just to see what people might find out should they decide to look me up on the Internet.   And lo and behold, what did I find last night?  – A signed headshot of myself up for sale.

Two months ago, I was contacted out of the blue by a chap who said he was an Eastenders fan and that he wanted a signed photograph.  I had a fan?!  Donkey’s years ago, before the dawn of the universe and the invention of barcodes, I played DI Peckley in 2 episodes.  A teeny cameo role that no-one could possibly remember.  I have a vague recollection of being filmed talking to my fellow officer in a car outside the café and then running inside and arresting somebody for a drugs offence.  And that.Was.It.

I rarely send out headshots of myself these days because everything is digital but I dug out a very old photo, signed it and sent it off.  As Alan Ladd once said, “I think any Hollywood movie star who refuses autographs has a hell of a nerve.”

Okay, so I’m Cricklewood rather than Hollywood but the sentiment is the same.   It cost me a couple of quid in postage, money possibly put to better use by paying off a bit of my £23 quid library fine or buying some toothpaste but hey….. I’m an actress.  I’m resilient.   That week I used my daughter’s card and salt on my choppers.

I progressed with my life and thought no more about it.  Actually, I occasionally glowed a little inwardly; a warm glow; an ‘Oasty-Toasty-Cottage-On-The-Coasty’ glow of the ego; an ego which whispered, “Hey, life is not so bad… forget the fact that a crack addict lives in your bin area… forget that you are so poor you share shoes with your son… forget these heart-hardening days of hammering fruitlessly on the firmly closed titanium door of opportunity with your Play-Doh fists of hope.  You my friend, once upon a time, were in Eastenders… you my friend… have a fan.”

And then – he sold me.  If you don’t believe me – here’s the link.  You might have to cut and paste it into your browser bar but it’s worth it – take a look for yourselves.  See – its true I tell you!

He was no fan.  Sob!  He was a ruthless eBay autograph Seller, craftier than a fox, quieter than a naked ninja, stealthier than a Nighthawk.  It would be pointless playing Grandmother’s Footsteps with him, put it that way.

Not content with deceptively obtaining my photograph, the Seller has added a somewhat embellished list of my acting accomplishments, including three separate appearances in Coronation Street.  I wish!  I’ve never even been to Manchester.  The nearest I’ve got to the Corrie cast is being photographed with Bill Tarmey at an album signing in HMV Oxford Street (**it was for my friend’s mum, okay?!).

Caveat Emptor, as they say in Latin – in other words ‘let the buyer beware.’  (Thanks to my teenage son, I speak one other Latin phrase – Sexus Erectus Pinus.  That’s six tall pine trees, I’ll have you know).  I mean, I could have sold my own photograph on eBay and made a few quid for coffee and buns for me and the crack addict.  Ah well, on top of trading my photo, the Seller can now boast that he was blogged about afterwards for his audacity, and that can be his claim to fame.  He’ll never beat mine.  I once met the Honey Monster at Fiveways, Colchester.

I shall continue to Google myself and I thoroughly recommend you all Google yourselves on a regular basis.  Just make sure you avoid boiling Roosters at the same time and you’ll never have to shave your thumbs.