Radio Drama Festival

And the Winners are…

First prize Full length

Wederik de Backer (Belgium) – for Almanak

First prize goes to Almanak, created by Wederik De Backer from his detailed exploration of the archives and neighbourhood of a building used by generations of inhabitants of the Brugse Poort district in Ghent.

From the anecdotes of real people living in this specific place is weaved a line of stories – some very earthy, some nightmarish, and some absurd, but in a true-to-absurd-life way – into which the jurors found they were drawn, as if eavesdropping. The stories unfold simply as in real life, with evocative silences between people, and time for the listener to be absorbed into the acoustics of real spaces from which these stories emerge – the very same spaces in which this drama was actually recorded.

Also true to life is the wonderful, tragicomic unfathomability of the thoughts and actions of these people and their problems, which soundscapes echo either unobtrusively at apt moments within the lifelike pace, or with occasional heightened flashbacks, before returning to a poised stillness.

Issues and thoughts on life emerge, such as who belongs to the community (people who didn’t, now do; and the new newcomers don’t); bittersweet advice from old to young about getting on with living their life – even if young and old, amusingly, all struggle to remember the same well-known aphorism on the subject, and all fail to quite correctly quote it.

Second Prize

RTE (Ireland) – for From Eden

This drama of a traumatised young man and woman meeting when each comes to hole up in an unused bathroom above a party is writing of such great quality that it deserves to become a modern classic – for radio and in its stage version: offering exceptionally varied opportunities and challenges to even the most experienced actor; engrossing if not enthralling to any audience. The writer, Stephen Jones, himself plays the young man.

It gives the lie to the notion that anyone can write dialogue: this is beautifully nuanced, so various in the different levels of interaction. Within the confined space and short space of time, the two characters, quite naturally and believably, try out layers of humour to find a common wavelength, then, gradually reveal more – still amidst some joshing – about their highly personal, painful stories.

Some of the jury discerned a meaningful subtext in the songs, just audible from the party downstairs; but apart from that, and a few very brief sound effects very deftly placed, all we needed – and all rejoiced in – was this great script.

Third prize

RTE (Ireland) – for Surviving Ireland

Devised, written and produced by Aidan O’Donovan & Colm Tobin, who also both perform in it, this is a particularly clever, witty mockumentary, very relevant to the lives of everyone from eight months upwards – today, and ever since the mists of the last ten years. With a recording team experienced in making documentaries, who chose to record this in MS, the technique usually used in live broadcasts, this drama totally achieves the aim to sound just like the real thing, and with this aim, is also acted, as well as produced, to perfection.

The actors not only skilfully and totally avoid each and every of the many temptations to play it up, but also create interesting, colourful, yet subtle observations on human nature – whilst still keeping the more obvious ’actor’s energy’ at bay, still making it feel like a documentary – an hilarious, brilliant achievement. The comedy in the devised script is never too obvious; and tight editing comes just at the right moments, when the comedy sails most closely to the wind, again keeping the whole idea delightfully believable.

SWR (Germany) for Eine Woche Voller Samstage

A live radio play adapted by Ulla Illerhaus from the classic German children’s book by Paul Maar, who also plays the narrator in this recording. An amazingly successful coming together of artistic talent and technical expertise. The actors create brilliantly colourful characters: the strange sprite who represents the joy, fun and freedom of a perfect, seemingly never-ending Saturday has an exceptional vocal range.

The live band, solo and ensemble, were as talented as each of the actors, individually and together: different instruments take their turn to contribute to a wide range of sounds, solo or in different combinations, providing comic or atmospheric underscoring. Spirited, gutsy musical interludes keep the pace going into the next scene.

This live play requires a demanding succession of sound effects which the Foley artist generously supplies with perfect timing. A beautifully clear recording with spectacularly successful balance and mix between sound fx – musical and Foley – narrator, actors, underlying soundscape from the band. The fact that all this was immaculately achieved in this swift, energetic live show impressed those in the jury most experienced in this field.

Short form

Sverrir Gudjonsson (Iceland) – for Ophelia’s Harp

Press release: 2018 UK International Radio Drama Festival Announce the WINNERS Press Release