News, Radio Plays

quicksandsLucy Caldwell’s new radio play “Quicksands”, a drama about the slippery and shifting notions of truth and memory was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on December 8. Though no longer available on BBC iPlayer more information can be found here..

A young married couple, Tessa and James, hire a caravan for a week’s holiday on the wind-swept Northern Irish coast with their two young children. It’s make-or-break for their relationship: James is in love with someone else and wants a separation. Clambering over the sand dunes on the beach Tessa and the children get into difficulties and find themselves trapped in quicksand.

When James realises what is happening to his family he turns and leaves them, running away. James insists he was running for help, but Tessa believes, has always believed, that James turned his back on his family and intended to leave them for dead. But just who is telling the truth?

Louis MacNeice Memorial Lecture


Macniece-lectureThe BBC Louis MacNeice Memorial Lecture seeks to acknowledge the impact and continuing relevance of Louis MacNeice’s work as a poet, BBC programme-maker, critic and author and explores current themes within the arts and broadcasting.

The 2014 lecture, given by Professor Jonathan Allison (who edited the MacNeice letters for Faber and Faber) had additional dramatized sequences by Lucy Caldwell. The focus of the lecture was the wartime period in MacNeice’s career and offered insights which his writing and correspondence provides into his work, relationship and views.

The event took place Thursday 04 December, 7.00pm, at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast

The Watcher on the Wall

Radio Plays

macnieceTo mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death, the story of poet Louis MacNeice’s trans-Atlantic love affair with the American short story writer Eleanor Clark and the poetry it inspired, dramatised from his Letters by playwright Lucy Caldwell.

In 1939 Louis MacNeice fell in love. The poet had had a tough few years: his world had fallen apart when his adored wife eloped with their American lodger, and now, with divorce proceedings acrimonious and MacNeice a single parent looking after their young son Daniel, the poet plunges himself into his travels and his work.

Then, in the spring of 1939, MacNeice met Eleanor Clark, a young, beautiful and gifted short-story writer. Their intense, passionate, desperate affair – he in England, she in New York, the war and the Atlantic Ocean between them – consumed the next few years, and the poet’s imagination. Communicating through letters, their relationship becomes for MacNeice one of pursuit rather than possession, but nevertheless amid the pressures of parenthood, debts, deadlines and the on-going war, it inspires some of MacNeice’s most famous and passionate poetry, most notably “Meeting Point” and “Cradle Song for Eleanor”. But can a relationship that exists more in the mind than reality ever endure, or will its fate simply be that of a passing poetic fantasy?

The Watcher on the Wall was broadcast on Wed 4 Sep 2013. For more information, see the BBC iPlayer page here.

Girl from Mars

Radio Plays

mars“I came home because they found a body. It was two weeks before my twenty-first birthday and a month before my final exam results were out. Which meant I was almost exactly as old as she was. As she was.”

Five years ago, almost to the day, Eleanor’s big sister Amy disappeared. At about 3pm on a Saturday afternoon she walked out of the house and no-one ever heard from her again. They never found out what happened to her, either. Until now…

Girl from Mars was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 3rd June 2008.

Girl from Mars won the Imison Award which perpetuates the memory of Richard Imison who devoted his entire career to radio drama and to developing new talent. Of “Girl from Mars” the judges said:

“This is a gripping and powerful depiction of the effect on a family when one sibling goes missing. The beautifully-told story begins when a body is found and the remaining daughter returns to be with her family while they await identification. Girl From Mars is moving and emotionally taut. It veers away from sentimentality and felt personal and believable. The structure is complex – combining three different timescales – and uses radio to its full potential, using many techniques including voice-overs, dialogue, text messages, and voice mail. The story has a shades-of-grey resolution about the way a person’s life can tragically stop short – and this is echoed in he subtle way the writer ends her own play too.”

Praise for “Girl from Mars”

“‘Show, not tell’ is probably the best tip you can give anyone who wants to write; and the most difficult thing to achieve. It’s so tempting to stuff everything in, to give away all the evidence too soon or describe every last detail down to the colour of the gunman’s eyes, just to make sure that your readers have followed the plot. It’s an even more difficult technique to master in a radio play, where you might think that ‘telling’ is what matters. How else can your listeners understand what on earth is going on when they have no visual clues? But as any fan of radio drama knows, it’s what’s left out that counts; the absence of information gives the listener licence to invent, filling in the blank spaces with your own imagined scenarios. (It’s like sitting on the Tube or bus and wondering about the life story of the person squashed right up against your ear.)

The winning playwright in this year’s Imison Award (given to the best original script by a writer new to radio, organised by the Society of Authors in memory of the great champion of radio drama, Richard Imison) kept us guessing until the end of her play, and even then left us with a conundrum: ‘Whatever happens we’re not going to know what happened or why.’ It takes guts in a writer to abandon your listeners just at the point when they need you most, to resolve everything neatly and provide them with an upbeat ending on which to finish the ironing, or struggle round the M25. Lucy Caldwell’s award-winning play, Girl from Mars (Radio Four, Monday), took us right inside the horror of losing your sister (or daughter), suddenly, one afternoon, without explanation or any telling clues. There’s an open door, and a full teapot on the table, but no Amy, and nothing to suggest why she is no longer in her flat in Belfast. Five years later, a body is discovered in the River Lagan, just close by. Will it be hers? ”
Kate Chisholm, The Spectator.