Intimacy and power through audio drama

Pictured: Ian Billings (left), Carl Cattermole (middle) and Lulu Raczka (right)

We catch up with two of the three shortlisted playwrights from the 2019 Imison Award – Lulu Raczka and Carl Cattermole – to talk about their shortlisted plays, friendships, writing in prison, the realm of audio drama, and what they've learnt along the way.

What is your play trying to say?

Lulu Raczka: The play is about friendships. Old friendships. Those friends you've had forever, and you might not have anything in common anymore, but there is something deeper underneath that connects you. It's a chance to show all the nastiness in these relationships, the grudges you've held for a decade, all the petty jealousy, alongside all the love. Within this framework I wanted to look at teenage girl friendships specifically. As a teenager, I believed a lot of incredibly messed up things were completely normal, and I think I was socialised to believe this. I learned these beliefs from friends, and passed them onto others. Of course, we all gained these understandings from the world around us, but we held up these fallacies amongst ourselves. I guess the play is about reckoning with the damage of these beliefs as an adult.

Carl Cattermole: My play is talking about the debt cycle behind prison walls. If you thought that high street payday lenders are bad, then wait until you know about Double Bubble!

Audio drama can be a challenging field – what roadblocks have you faced so far?

LR: This is my first radio play, so I probably don't know the specific roadblocks of the audio drama world. Currently, the only roadblock I've had is pitches going nowhere, but that is a roadblock across so many fields.

CC: This was the first drama I've ever written. Prison Radio Association really believed in me and encouraged me to do it. I wrote this drama in an industrial freight train yard in Chihuahua, Northern Mexico – my main roadblock was the stray dogs trying to eat my queso and the gangsters burning a bonfire making me a bit paranoid.

Despite the quality of work on show, some still say audio drama is dead. What do you think might change their minds?

LR: The intimacy of it. Before working in it, I hadn't appreciated how personal the medium is, on a physical level. It is someone speaking directly into your ear. Knowing it will be experienced so personally allows you to write very personally. I hope people will realise this, and fall in love with it.

CC: Good content comes from free minds. Prisoners are often freer in their mindset than those stuck in a 40-hour work world. Prison is hell but the outside world is so pressured and distracted it's like a boat navigating a canal full of shopping trolleys and crisp packets.

If you could change one thing about how the industry works, what would it be?

LR: I don't know it well enough to really answer. This is my first play!

CC: I have virtually no experience, I'm a young writer, talk to me in a decade... but I think liberal radio types often lack the life experience, the people with life experience lack the know-how. Prison Radio Association brings both together.

What’s one piece of advice you would have found valuable when you started?

LR: I think it would be the same as for other industries – work with people you like and who like you! Once you have a really good relationship with someone, you can make the ambitious, challenging or personal work you want to, knowing you're supported.

CC: Steal your lunch and bunk the train so you don't have to work on Friday and you can spend it reading books.

Congratulations to 2019 Imison Award finalists Ian Billings, Carl Cattermole and Lulu Raczka – and stay tuned for the winner announcement on Sunday 3 February 2019.