Weird Tales: recording episode two
I have only done a few radio plays and still feel very much like a novice but I have to say all my experiences so far in the recording studio have been thoroughly enjoyable.
I think the reason I enjoy it so much is because you aren't being watched. The director, producers and sound engineer are in a separate room, listening to you so they aren't scrutinising your every movement. You don't have to worry about your appearance, or learn your lines (always a bonus).
There is still a lot of interaction between you and the other actors and you record in a large room, divided into different areas e.g. kitchen, bedroom, staircase. It almost feels like you are in a giant dollshouse and this only adds to the feeling of 'playing' which gives such a sense of freedom when you are performing. I always thought that the sound effects would be added on in the editing process but you are often provided with personal props that are used during the scene e.g. the office characters in, 'Weird Tales' where all provided with mugs of coffee to drink while gossiping during our first scene.
It was great to be involved in, 'Weird Tales' because there was real scope to play around with the characters and have fun due to the comic elements and the slightly fantastical nature of the script. I had talked to Luke beforehand and we discussed the idea of the three office workers being similar to the three witches in, 'Macbeth'. They huddle around the water cooler gossiping, talking about future predictions and cackling amongst themselves. During my time as an office temp, I have met some great characters and I wanted to draw on these memories when creating the character of Louise. She is the mother hen of the office, dominant and protective over her clique, but with a naughty sense of humour. I was also aware that they had to be believable characters so I had to reign it in so as not to make her too much of a,'grotesque'.
We began the day with a read-through, which is an opportunity to hear the play 'lift' off the page as you hear each actor's interpretation of his or her character. It was lovely to hear the comedy in the piece combined with the spookiness as the story reaches its climax.
I had a bit of a break before I recorded my scenes so I decided to sit in the recording booth and have a listen. It's a great way to pick up tips as you hear the director give notes to the actors and watch the sound engineers play around with the different sounds. At one point a note was given to one of the actors to smile during a particular line and you could really hear the difference it made to the tone of the delivery.
Then it was my turn! It all went very well. There are always minor problems to work through, e.g. you all have to be close enough to the microphone and if there are a few actors in the scene, the logistics of who stands where and when have to be worked through. You generally get a chance to have a quick rehearsal before recording and after each take; Luke would come into the studio and give us any notes. We then wait for the green light and go for it (whilst trying not to rustle the pages of your script as you turn the page).
I always feel like I come away from doing a radio play having learnt so much about the different techniques involved. Can't wait to hear the finished result!
Emma Stansfield is an actor
- We'll publish a third blog post to coincide with episode three of this short series next week. Bookmark this page for all three Weird Tales blog posts.
- Listen to episode two of Weird Tales tonight at 2300 (and on the Radio 4 web site for seven days after that).
- Follow programme makers audiotheque on Twitter and look out for Lovecraft references during transmission. Use the hashtag #weirdtales if you're listening.
- There are production pictures by Michelle Turner from Weird Tales 2: Split the Atom, on Flickr.
- H.P. Lovecraft has a Wikipedia entry.
- The picture shows a 1954 edition of Weird Tales, featuring stories by Lovecraft and other horror pioneers. It's by Jim Barker and it's used under licence.