Hinterland Radio Dramas are Both Seen and Heard at UC Davis
UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance presents Hinterland, a two-part radio play, written and directed by Granada Artist-in-Residence Lucy Gough. Two poetic dramas take the audience into a dark surreal landscape sculpted in sound and voice. Both explore the search for the soul on a journey to the edge, the place where things change. The subtitles are Mapping the Soul, which is pure radio drama, and (again) Hinterland, a hybrid between radio and theatre. Hinterland opens on Wednesday, Dec. 1, and continues through Saturday, Dec.4, at Main Theatre, Wright Hall, UC Davis.
Hinterland is a fusion of wild savage earthiness and magic realism. It concerns imagination and transformation revolving around one core question: What is the soul? Employing familiar biblical figures and myths, Hinterland weaves a story in which the soul is explored from many different perspectives and with many different results. Hinterland dances from an 18th century brain dissection to conversations between a 21st century scientist and his red stiletto-shoed soul. An anatomist literally tries to find the tangible soul within the human body, sin-eaters and other creatures search hungrily for the soul, and a man believes there is no soul. The two-part play suggests and investigates very complex and diverging possibilities for the soul. It also poses interesting questions that are left unanswered.
Gough was commissioned to write each drama separately. Fascinated by the concept of the soul, she reworked the material before devising the current two-part production where each half charts the same story with important creative differences. “Having written the stage play, I was then asked to do a radio play and it became necessary to go back to the drawing board. Radio has the potential to be very much inside the head so the radio play was a good opportunity to take the play into [a] new realm, explore the philosophy of it all a bit more.”
Audiences will have an opportunity to experience Hinterland as both radio drama and theatrical production. Gough has devised the two-part play to be performed on the stage and simultaneously broadcast over the radio waves. UC Davis campus radio station KDVS 90.3FM will broadcast Hinterland on Thursday, Dec. 2, during the live performance.
Department of Theatre and Dance Professor Bella Merlin was instrumental in bringing Gough to UC Davis from the UK as Granada Artist-in-Residence. Merlin recounts that she “met [Gough] through the radio dramas and was instantly compelled to listen to and read as much of her work as I could. She miraculously combines urban, gritty almost urbane prose with metaphorical, metaphysical strands which haunt the writing… Her imagination is truly original. Lucy’s dramatization of Wuthering Heights for BBC Radio, featured the actual house – Wuthering Heights — speaking as the narrator of the piece. This unusual choice caused national debate.”
Merlin explains that in the UK radio dramas are among the most popular and revered genres. “The BBC prides itself on being one of the main outlets for new writing. Until recent years, there was a new radio play every afternoon of the week … It’s not uncommon to hear voices such as Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, and indeed American actors such as F. Murray Abrahams on BBC radio dramas and serials.” Gough is excited to bring the power and prestige of this format to UC Davis. She hopes to move audiences, “to make them think, to take them to another place for a short time, to realize how powerful their own imaginations are, for them to realize they went to that place in their own head.”
Audiences are guided towards those wild edges within their minds by the performances of both undergraduate and graduate student actors. Radio drama initially presented an obstacle, stripping the actors of the usual tools they rely on while crafting a performance. Undergraduate Michael Lutheran states it is a great challenge to leave an actor “with only their voice.” Playing the Anatomist in Mapping the Soul, he is compelled to make the audience see his dissections through sheer vocal performance. In Hinterland Lutheran plays the two characters of God and Skullcoat and notes that he “did not want to play the typical thunderous voice that comes from the clouds as God, but rather through the name of Skullcoat… give him a voice with a lot of texture that can give the audience a lot to play with.”
Such well-crafted cast performances combine with the bold sharpness of the script to create a wild, lyrical, and often humorous journey. Undergraduate Sarah Birdsall, who plays the role of Eve, ensures fun for the audience given that “my Eve’s a bit of a tramp, but she’s not stupid.” Subverting the traditional expectations of these biblical and religious icons and myths is only part of the passage through Hinterland. Ultimately the audience may search for the soul alongside the characters and reach their own conclusions, magical or otherwise.
Gough is aided in the production by UC Davis graduate students: Performance Studies doctoral candidate Jorge Morejon (actor), Master of Fine Arts candidates Brian Livingston (assistant director/actor), Barry Hubbard (actor), Maggie Chan (costume designer), Kourtney Lampedecchio (scenic designer), and Glenn Fox (lighting designer). Undergraduate Jenna Seid serves as stage manager.
There will be a talkback with the audience after every performance.
Lucy Gough Biography
Lucy Gough is an acclaimed British playwright. Her works are frequently broadcast on BBC World Service and BBC Radio.
She was shortlisted for both the John Whiting Award and BBC Wales Writer of the Year Award (1994) with her play Crossing The Bar. Her Gryhead was shortlisted for best new writing 2004 at Theatre in Wales – the Welsh theatre and performance web site.
Her first BBC broadcast was in 1994 with Our Lady of Shadows (BBC Radio 3). Since then her plays have been featured on the BBC World Service including Prophetess as Play of the Week. She has had five plays on BBC Radio 4: Head, The Red Room, The Mermaids Tail and Judith Beheading Holofernes and The Raft. Her Radio dramatization of Wuthering Heights for BBC Radio 4 was broadcast as the classic serial in Woman’s Hour in July 2003. Mapping the Soul was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in July 2005. The White Hare was broadcast in 2009 on BBC Radio 7.
Gough is creative research fellow at Aberystwyth University, UK.
What: Hinterland: Two poetic radio dramas by acclaimed British playwright/director and UC Davis Granada Artist Lucy Gough explore the search for the soul in a dark surreal landscape sculpted in sound and voice.
Where: Main Theatre, Wright Hall, UC Davis
When: Wednesday – Saturday, Dec. 1 – 4, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec 4, 2 p.m.
Tickets: General: $17/19 Students/Children/Seniors: $12/14
Special Youth Group Tickets: School and youth groups of 10 or more receive a special rate of $5 per ticket at the teacher or group leader’s request. Call the UC Davis Department of Theatre & Dance at (530) 752 -5863 to make arrangements for this discount.