Laurie Sansom (c) with (l to r) Michael Malarkey, Liz White, Jacqueline King and Joanna Bacon
The cast and director from the Royal & Derngate Theatre Northampton bring Tennessee Williams’ early play, Spring Storm, to radio for the first time.Radio Drama executive producer Jeremy Mortimer writes about working with them on the radio production.
I saw Laurie Sansom’s production of Spring Storm when it transferred from Northampton to the Cottesloe stage at the National Theatre in 2010 and I was struck not only by the quality of the production and the performances, but by the rich and vivid writing ,and the direct approach to issues of sexuality, class, and mental distress. Over a decade before A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie, here is Tennessee Williams rehearsing some of the themes that were to feature so strongly in his later work.
When we were discussing how to reflect the Tennessee Williams centenary in Drama on 3, it seemed a perfect opportunity to record the play for its radio premiere. So, five months after the last theatre performance we brought director Laurie Sansom and the original cast together for a four-day recording session in the drama studio in Broadcasting House in London. Laurie was new to radio, but rose to the challenge and was soon up to speed with some of the trickery we use in radio drama. You want Hertha to sound as if she’s climbing the high windy bluff overlooking the Mississippi? Well you ask Arthur to back away from the microphone while he talks and ask Hertha to make some effortful breathing, and it will sound as if she’s moving away from him. Simple really. The cast also had to rethink the way that they were pitching their performances – instead of porjecting to reach the audience at the back of the theatre, they needed to relish the intimacy of radio. Amazingly, it appeared that even after a long break from the play they all still had the full text stored in their memories, and didn’t have to work from scripts.