Making theatre in lockdown has been hard for every creative. Myriad ways have been experimented with to try and reconnect our lockdown selves with our dramatic sides, and Castle Theatre Company is no exception to this rule. The company has revived the humble radio play with their recent offering of The Marley Stones.
Written by Issy Flower, the play is a brilliant reintroduction to the world of DST, after a seemingly endless and unfortunate hiatus. It melds together the fantastical with the rational, the mystical with the scientific, to create half an hour’s worth of audible content that is thoroughly entertaining.
One of the main challenges of a radio play is of course to ensure a listener can follow it. We rely so heavily on our visual senses when experiencing a play but it is easy to forget how difficult it is to convey meaning and sense when this is stripped away.
However, the production team and cast of The Marley Stones rise to this challenge. Voices are clear and distinct, making it easy to track each characters’ development in the short piece, and repeated sound motifs are used very creatively to signal changes in environment and atmosphere. Praise must be given to co-director and technical director, Dragos Farcas, for these ingenious audio signals that really aid the flow of the story. Furthermore, the sound effects in the penultimate scene really enhance the vocals of Naomi Cook, who plays the normally timid Jane, making the moment truly supernatural.
Each actor showcases their talent for compelling vocal delivery. Eloise Richmond certainly commands the ‘stage’ as she takes on the role of Sharon, the scientific group’s leader. Her voice fits comfortably in the role, making it easy for a listener to note the character’s rational as well as imaginative sides.
The closed-minded and sceptical character of Tony is also very effectively portrayed. Cameron Ashplant really helps the audience notice the transformation the character experiences when faced with things that challenge his preconditioned beliefs.
Adam Trusted’s generally happy-go-lucky Mike provides the comedic side of the piece. His witty comments complement the regular tensions between Tony and Sharon.
The villagers, Mrs Lucas and Mr Price, played by Miriam Templeman and Sean Gallagher Gill respectively, are a delightful foil to the scientific research group. Their charming accents and confusing sayings contribute to the mystery of the play, whilst making audible experience more dynamic.
Flower’s writing must be commended. It acknowledges the limitations of the radio play yet takes advantage of the opportunities the medium has to offer. Certain lines are innovatively written to suit a radio listener, lines that on stage wouldn’t have the same dramatic resonance. The script, perhaps slow moving at the beginning, nevertheless becomes well-paced, and crescendos appropriately towards the final climactic scene. Scenes are kept short, so listeners maintain focus, and the dialogue feels natural for the most part.
The Marley Stones is an excellent example of how drama can survive in challenging circumstances. Given the fact that this piece was auditioned in a certainly unusual manner, and will have been rehearsed and recorded mostly behind computer screens, the cast and production team have nevertheless done a brilliant job at celebrating Durham’s dramatic talent and produced a short but clever piece of work that anyone can enjoy.
Image: Castle Theatre Company