Stella did manage to get Steve Walker to comment on our Q&A's. This section is referring to her review on the radio-play which you'll find in the Projects section of this site!


Thanks to Stella for your efforts.


What led you to be a playwright after training to be an actor?
I don't believe in the idea of 'a playwright' – I'm also a poet, an artist, and many other things.  I write plays because I can say things in them and to particular audiences that I cannot say in any other way; if there is the freedom to do so.  If there is not, then plays cannot be written – and that is more or less where we are today.
How do you set about writing a radio play – and this one in particular?
Quite simply, I imagine the radio play and let it happen. Journey to the Centre of the Earth was different because it was an adaptation, but because I knew the book so well anyway I was able to think of it freely, almost as if it was a story I had made up myself.  In this play, I sat down one morning and wrote the whole 90-minute play at a sitting, in about 8 hours, without reference to the book, which was in my head.
Could you describe the process of recording the play?
We had four days in the 6th floor studios in Broadcasting House, Portland Place   The first day was a read-through, where all the principal actors sit round a table and just read the script through.  I took the part of one of the actors who wasn’t there, so got to play a scene with Nat then.
Radio plays aren’t always recorded in sequence but Eoin O’Callaghan believed in recording each scene in sequence which both actors and myself were pleased to do.
After the first morning we just went at it, recording one scene after another.  There were also bits of narration and spot-mike bits which the actors record whenever they have some free time.  I remember Nat worked through his lunch breaks to get those done right. 
Then it can be weeks before the whole play is edited and music and FX put in. If there are any problems at that point it’s usually impossible to get the actors back in, so any little errors have to stay. 
What were your impressions of Nathaniel Parker?
I remember him very well from the recording of the play.  He was terrific in the role of Axel and impressed everyone very much with his huge emotional range.
He’d just come back from LA and talked about his experiences trying to place his résumé there.  He and I shared an interest in horse-riding and we talked a lot about that too.
He was very professional, very well liked and did a really good job.
Do you as the writer have a say in the casting?
Quite often.  Although it was Eoin O’Callaghan who had seen Nat in something and recommended him.  
Not all actors are willing to work in radio as it’s very poorly paid, and the ancient water-cooled air-con system in Broadcasting House was very hard on the actors’ voices.  So they really have to be dedicated.  But some actors seem to find audio drama quite liberating and they really let loose and put a lot into it.  I really love working with them.
Is it usual for the writer to be at the recording – let alone take part?!
It used to be quite normal.  It helped the producers because they could get re-writes done on the spot if the play was too long or too short, or if the actors didn’t like a line.  And the actors could ask me questions about anything.
There are lines some actors simply can’t say –  I would often re-write a line to suit an actor, though I don’t recall having to do that for Nat.
I did about 40 plays for the BBC in about 4 years and attended all the recordings, so they got quite used to me being around.
Tell me about your interesting choice of music and sound effects for the play!
I wanted to use music that would express unconscious movements of the psyche. Verne was writing a story describing a delving into the unconscious mind which was the Earth, before Freud actually described his notion of the mind's structure.
Laibach with their fascist undertones, were also expressing the future of Prof. Lidenbrok's Germany, and the end of the journey of German Romanticism. One thing I always work on in radio plays is the idea of space, describing space, distance, the weight of space, and this had particular application in this play with Lidenbrok's vision of 'sliding down the Earth's radius'.
What are you currently working on?
I am writing a screenplay set in Mississippi, and a book of poems about the Pyrenees.  My latest radio plays are a half-hour for RTE about a shop which exists in two places in Dublin (I am currently writing a version set in Miami for a radio station in Tampa), and a play about the birth of the Olympic games which was on the BBC on August 7.

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