Playing: Arboreto salvatico for 2 cellos by Giovanni Sollima
BBC Radio 3

Drama of the Free Thinking Drama ...

Producer, R3 Multiplatform

Broadcasting live radio drama is a seat-of-the-pants exercise. Producer Kate Rowland describes what goes in to this Sunday's Free Thinking Drama from Gateshead's Baltic Exchange ...

Each year the Freethinking drama does two things to me, it gives me a huge creative adrenalin rush, and in equal measure makes me tense, (one with childcare scenarios that rival Heath Robinson constructions, and two with the classic production nightmare where you stand on stage, and absolutely nothing happens.

However this year's drama penned by the brilliant poet and writer Simon Armitage is all going to plan. Like the holiday countdown - passport, tickets, money - with live drama you go script, actors, venue, script, actors, audience. So far so good.

The Torchbearers deals with Simon's fascination with this year's Olympic torch runners, the ordinary men and women on the sidelines of the media circus. Who were they? and what drove them? What's great about the Freethinking drama is the immediacy of the collaboration with the writer, as you are asking them to write about something that is in the ether, that has got under their skin, and that will provoke the audience both in the venue and listening at home to think about how they feel and what it triggers in them.

In creating the characters of Paula, Ray, Colin, Spencer and Chloe, Simon has brought a range of characters to life who surprise and shock us with their behaviour. You think you know someone only to discover that not everything is what it appears to be. But to make a drama work you need actors that can truly inhabit someone else's world. And how lucky are we to have the most fantastic cast to do just that. It is so rare that you are able to cast your ideal but in this case with Kevin Whately, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Mark Benton, Christopher Connel and Philippa Wilson we have the perfect group of strangers, who will bring this new world into being. The Baltic is a wonderful venue to work in as you are surrounded by the most inspiring artworks and the team there are so welcoming. Paul Cargill, the studio manager, has done every Freethinking Drama with me and so knows my foibles! Because when it comes to it we only have a day and a half to rehearse with the actors before we go live on R3 on Sunday November 4th at 9.00pm, making sure that both the emotional journey and all the technical effects works together .

Everyone involved with the Free Thinking Festival and the production team have all been so supportive, so now it's up to me to make sure that we create the most compelling listen.


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