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Free Thinking Festival: 24 Weeks / Marchant

November 2, 2008


I spoke to writer Tony Marchant, director Kate Rowland and cast a few hours before Saturday’s performance and recording  of specially commissioned Radio 3 Free Thinking Drama, 24 Weeks. Watch video interview here.

Listen to the drama on the BBC iPlayer here from 1 hour 17 minutes and 30 seconds in. 


One of the lasting memories of this year’s Free Thinking Festival for me at least will undoubtedly be the time I spent in the company of the production team for Radio 3’s Free Thinking drama “24 Weeks”.

Written by Tony Marchant – his first radio drama – the play tackles the issues surrounding abortion and specifically the 24 week debate. The gritty subject material certainly fits in with Radio 3’s committment to challenging drama but interestingly, this production was to be recorded in front of an audience. What would be the impact of this on the actors and the resulting recording?

The opportunity to sit in on some of the rehearsals proved interesting. I was especially taken by the speed at which the production was put together. The video interviews with Marchant, director Kate Rowland and the cast reveal the almost 36 hour turn around and how the actors were experiencing their first radio drama recording in front of an audience. 

Most striking was the quality of the performances I saw in rehearsal. The play is essentially a two-hander between a married couple – Sarah and Robert. There are various points where raw emotion between the couple powers through as they confront their feelings about Sarah’s pregnancy. 

It was these scenes which prompted an entirely unexpected emotional response in me. Seeing an actor cry on stage in the way that Sean Gallagher (Robert) did during rehearsals resulted in one reaction for me: I cried too. 

The fact that I continued snivelling when the actors finished rehearsing said much for their obvious ability at grappling with the parts. All this after only a day of familiarising themselves with the script.

I did wonder whether my appreciation for the production was skewed because I had access to the production team and cast. It was only when I heard the entire performance back on the radio a night later that I realised my view wasn’t biassed. 

“24 Weeks” was gripping drama and earth-shatteringly executed by it’s stellar cast. OK, so I’m biassed a bit. But I did hear it and I cried that time too.

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