Editor's note: today we start a four-part series of posts about a chilling fantasy drama called Pilgrim which you can hear in the Afternoon Play slot starting today at 1415 and for the following three weeks. Producer Marc Beeby has been keeping a production diary - SB
To the drama studio in Broadcasting House for the first day of eight recording a new series of Pilgrim. Co-producer Jessica Dromgoole, the writer Sebastian Baczkiewicz and I are really excited to be making another series about poor, cursed William Palmer. We think we learnt a lot from making the first series and we're all very pleased to be re-entering this strange world with new stories that feel so tight and original. We're also delighted we've got such a good cast together. In addition to the incomparable Paul Hilton as our hero, we've also managed to get Claire Price, Luke Treadaway, Jamie Foreman, Judy Parfitt, Bill Gaunt and the redoubtable Anna Wing, still magnificent at 94!
The read through of the first episode goes well, although the world of Pilgrim needs a bit of explaining to some of the cast who haven't heard the first series. It can be a bit difficult getting your head round the hero being the best part of a thousand years old, or the idea that the person you thought was your grandfather is actually a malevolent faerie responsible for letting a whole church full of people drown during the Great Flood of 1757.
The cast are all so experienced and so good the recording is pretty straightforward and goes well. But we have two big technical challenges in this ep. The first is to make one of the characters suddenly speak with the collective voice of a 100 (drowned) people. What does this sound like? None of us knows. Easy to type this in a script, less easy to realise. We get the whole cast to speak the lines in chorus. Then we get them to whisper the lines. At the same time we experiment with different sorts of feedback effect and echo. One thing we all agree on: we want any moments of magic in this series to sound organic - to sound as though they come from nature, rather than signalling them with, say, tinkly music or zappy electronics. Some of the feedback and echo effects we try sound a bit manufactured. They won't do. We'll have to see what we can make of this when it comes to the editing.
Our other technical challenge is that two of the characters actually drown on dry land, with no water present (it's magic, you see), while another character is talking. This is tricky. In the end we decide to record the drowning character separately and then combine them with the speaking character in the edit. Jude Akuwudike is brilliant. He throws himself into it, spitting out great volumes of water, gargling and gurgling and thrashing about on the floor as if his life depended on it. Which I suppose it did. At the end of the take he gets a round of applause from us all. He deserves it. He is brilliant. He is also soaked.
Marc Beeby is Co-Producer of Pilgrim
- Listen to episode one of Pilgrim, series two, this afternoon at 1415 and, for seven days afterwards, on the Radio 4 web site.
- Jessica Dromgoole, who co-produced Pilgrim, has written for the Radio 4 blog before.
- Marc Beeby made a lovely video to promote the series which you can see on the Radio 4 Facebook page.
- The picture shows Lessingham Church in Norfolk and is by Steve Bowbrick