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Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Strange Recital

I went to a short story reading at the weekend. It’s not something I do very often, go out, but I made the effort because I knew two of the guys reading and wanted to be supportive. I’d no expectations but the event went pretty much the way these things usually go for me; I’m not the world’s best socialiser, far from it, but the readings themselves were interesting. I didn’t regret not being up there with them, not for a second. I do understand why people arrange events like this but just because you write readable stories doesn’t mean you should read them yourself. And this is especially true if your story is in the first person. People would laugh if I got up on a stage and started to read ‘Disintegration’ or ‘Monsters’. Despite having lived all my life in Scotland I do a lousy Scottish accent and an even worse New York one. So I was wary when my friend Brent Robison dropped me an e-mail a few months back asking permission to include my story ‘Tomorrowscape’ in his podcast, The Strange Recital. I’d no problems with him using it—hell, we writers pounce on any opportunity to promote our writing—I just didn’t think I could do the story justice. Not a problem as it happens. Brent had access to a stable of actors. “So, yes, fine, knock yourself out,” I said, or words to that effect. I told him a bit about the voice I heard in my head when I read the story but other than that I left him to interpret the thing as he saw fit. After a while he wrote back. “I’ve had an idea. Why don’t we have a woman read the story?” Now I’ve got nothing about women—love ’em to bits actually—but although nowhere in the story is the sex of the narrator mentioned in my head it was definitely a male born in 1924 in Syracuse, New York, to a Jewish family. Just saying. But why not a woman? I wrote back: 
I think this is an interesting proposition, Brent. I’m just sitting here waiting to see who gets cast as the next Doctor Who and will it be a woman (they’ve hinted as much) or, if they’re going to be super politically-correct, a black lesbian? Beckett had strong opinions on the subject and refused, for example, to sanction an all-female version of Waiting for Godot. When asked why not by Linda Ben-Zvi his answer was simply, “Women don’t have prostrates” and it’s a fair point but that only cancels out Vladimir; they also don’t get erections and that would excuse both men. I’ve never seen women play Didi and Gogo but I did see a female Lucky once and wasn’t impressed. Not so much because she was female but because she was a bad Lucky. Of course there’s nothing in my story to suggest the narrator’s a male although to be fair I’d never thought about it before. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work and I’d be interested to see what it might add if the actress gets the tone right. To that end you have my blessing. If I was directing her my main concern would be that her delivery doesn’t suggest any sympathy for the wife or antipathy for the husband. The narrator is reporting the facts as if they’d already happened. 
And so it came to pass. Brent sent me a short demo which I approved and the full version—with appropriate sound effects—went live about a week ago. And I have to say I was impressed. It’s not the way I would’ve read it but I only see that as a good thing and all credit to Erin Stanley for her understated performance. 

You can listen to the whole show here. There’s also a Q+A afterwards. The answers are mine but the voice isn’t.

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