Radio is such a hilarious medium. I hauled myself onto a train to Beaconsfield this morning, unsticking my eyes from the aggressive antihistamine that I eventually caved in and used to get to sleep at about 2am.

I was at the NFTS. National Film and Television School. I had blithely assumed it was on the tube network, not in bloody Wycombe. A friend of The Factory teaches there, and they have a module about telling stories for radio. Most of the students haven’t worked with professional actors. I was doing two stories with them. In one I was a journalist in Afghanistan, feeling the need to settle down at 40, falling in love by telephone with a woman I first rang by mistake. That was very much within my casting remit. I spent the morning in a soundproofed box (Kabul) talking to an Australian woman I’d only just met who was in a replica kitchen eating apples. At the end she came into my booth and we danced cheek to cheek. I think it’ll be a romantic moment.

In the afternoon I was playing a psychotic Yorkshire farmer. Much closer to my natural casting. I was glad of the coughing recently as it means I have a great big pit of crackly vocal damage. The thing that’s hilarious in radio is the distance between how the sound is made and what it represents. My friends at Fitzrovia Radio Hour explored that disconnect in great detail, making serious faced women in cocktail dresses smush melons with plungers while a fan blows the juice onto men in black tie “seriously” killing themselves with a lathe.

Today I sat in a corner with a pink towel on my lap while a man I had just met repeatedly put his own head into a bucket of water. I slapped my own leg to give him audible timings while reading my lines and every time I slapped my leg he ducked himself. After the first take, we had someone coming into the studio to check I wasn’t hurting my fellow actor. I was playing an absolute brute. But in reality the poor lad was ducking himself. With vigour. I was just sitting there admiring his attack.


Hopefully they’ll release the audio. The amount of times I’ve done things like this and never seen the result, never heard the edit – I can’t count anymore. Maybe it never gets finished. Maybe they never release it. Maybe it doesn’t get graded. Maybe they never bother linking in the actors. (One time I sat in a living room in Sidcup telling the camera (in a German accent) how much I loved my dog, while a dog I had just met obsessively tongue probed my teeth and lips like a teenager kissing for the first time. I saw the rushes and they looked great if fucking weird which was the intention. I did it with gusto: “Worth it for the showreel footage.” If it had ever got finished/edited/graded it would’ve been… But I digress.)

It’s a student project. I’m there to do what I do and teach them through being a practitioner. And it was an entertaining day. I met some smart people and had fun. Now it’s bedtime. While I was messing about my agent booked me some self tapes. One of them is due by 10 tomorrow…

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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