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The Day Dad Stole a Bus: Winner, 25th BBC World Service International Radio Playwriting Competition, 2nd language category

Péricles Silveira


When I was little, I used to walk around the house holding a tape recorder and a mic in which I narrated stories about inanimate objects: the adventures of the alarm clock that had to cross my parents’ bed to get to the window, or the phone that had to walk beneath the chairs in the living room.

I built labyrinths with rows of string that went around all the door knobs in the house: a complex network of traps and mechanisms that the robots I’d built with paperclips and erasers could cross.

At that moment my parents usually appeared: "Oh my God what's going on here?!"

But I was quite insistent.

I told stories.

That’s what I keep doing today.

Winner Preview: The Day Dad Stole A Bus By Péricles Silveira, winner of the 25th International Radio Playwriting Competition

I currently write on commission for cinema, television, theatre and radio.

The Day Dad Stole a Bus is my first play for radio. But before writing the first scene I discovered some things.

At first I had questions: should we forget painful events that happened? Initially I thought: if we keep remembering them it makes it hard to be who we are. So do we have the right to keep digging about inside ourselves? I knew I needed a journey to find that out.

So I’ve spent quite some time doing three things: researching about Bento Rodrigues, reading many radio plays and working on the structure of the story.

I went to the BBC Writersroom website and spent a lot of time in the Script Library. There you can find many produced scripts from the Radio Drama archive.

Reading as many radio plays as I possibly could, I’ve learned how sound effects and dialogue can work together to make us go through an emotional journey. That’s when I made the decision: I would write the script directly in English (although my first language is Portuguese). The dialogue should be fluid and I felt that it wouldn’t feel that way if I wrote it in Portuguese and then translated it.

Pericles Silveira, Joanne Gutknecht, and Jude Erupu - winners of the BBC World Service / British Council International Playwriting Award - give their three top tips for aspiring writers.

I went to my corkboard and started pinning paper card with ideas, events and turning points in the story. Then I rearranged the order of them, thinking when and why to reveal the real story that was behind the external objective of going to Grandma’s house.

This was not an easy task. I struggled for many days with incomplete answers, but I had the feeling that I was on the right track and stayed open to discovery.

At first I thought the journey would be told from Julio’s point of view. But later I realized it should be Nayara, his daughter, who’s the one who’s telling it. She would make us see and experience this journey through her narration.

When I had the structure, reversals, reveals and the final scene, I sat down and wrote the play, feeling I had found the story and so I knew the dialogue and sound effects I should choose.

Pericles Silveira, Joanne Gutknecht, and Jude Erupu - winners of the BBC World Service / British Council International Playwriting Award - on their favourite places to write and find inspiration.

Radio is a powerful medium where you can hold hands with the audience and provoke their imagination.

Thanks to reading lots of scripts from the BBC Writersroom Script Library, I felt confident to keep on writing, knowing that a radio play can be about photography, memory, magical surrealism or any idea that you believe is worth telling.

Next I’m going to write about a woman in her seventies who runs away from home and meets with Galileo Galilei and Salvador Dali.

Listen to Péricles Silveira's winning play 'The Day Dad Stole a Bus'

Find out more about the BBC World Service International Playwriting Competition - the winners and commended plays

The BBC World Service International Playwriting Competition is run by the BBC World Service and the British Council, in partnership with Commonwealth Writers, and co-produced by The Open University.