Monday, 30 April 2012

Review: Radio Dramas – Bad Memories and That’s Mine, This is Yours


"According to the meta-data on the files…”
From the first moments of the prologue, it is clear why Julian Simpson’s haunted house radio play Bad Memories won awards for its sound design. Recorded at Stanmer House in Brighton, David Chilton has created an amazingly well-textured soundscape which responds perfectly to the challenges of Simpson’s writing. To solve the mystery of the disappearance of an architect’s family whose bodies turn up in their cellar several years later yet with extremely perplexing forensic discoveries, the investigating officer turns to a tech wizard to see if a digital voice recorder found with them can reveal any clues.
And who else would you turn to in such a time but ‘Ruth from Spooks’?! Technically speaking it is Nicola Walker, playing a character called Rachel Weir, but it must be said that there’s not too much distance between the two. But as a huge fan of Spooks, and of Walker’s, I had no problem whatsoever with this. And as she works through the short clips of recordings that she is able to rescue, along with Rupert Graves’ detective, a disturbing tale of paranormal investigators, haunted children and scary little-girl-ghosts (always the worst kind!) begins to emerge.
I loved the way that the bang-up-to-date tech-savvy police procedural was combined with the traditional haunted house story, the fragments of the latter being pieced together increasingly disbelievingly by the former and resulting in something of considerable dramatic strength. Walker’s dry humour worked well with Graves’ more business-like manner, and in the recordings Anthony Calf’s father and Steven Mackintosh’s insightful investigator were effective. But the star really was the sound design, perfectly attuned to the mood and rich in detail that frequently had me jumping in my seat. Great stuff.
That’s Mine, This is Yours was a feisty yet tender tale by Peter Souter, of a couple splitting up and meeting one last time to divide their shared belongings. As they decide who gets what, the stories attached to their accumulated trinkets give voice to a life together - the romance of first dates and anniversaries, the desperate disappointments of failing to conceive, the pains of a marriage falling apart – and the difficulties of saying goodbye.
The interactions between Alex Jennings’ nerd Sam, with his plaintive appeals to make this a deeply symbolic occasion, and Tamsin Greig’s straight-talking Juliet, who would rather get the whole thing over and done with as her new bloke is waiting in the car outside, were great fun and well written. Barely scabbed-over resentments and frustrations immediately came to the fore but there was something sweet too about the way in which the assumptions that each made about the other were neatly debunked, a residual tenderness still existing and reflecting on the significance that they had had on each other’s life. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, and the message it gave to people who like their collections of mint comics and toys, but it proved to be an enjoyable listen.

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