First time playing: RadioFest


Sue Savage

KaijuFest was supposed to be a LARP about a group of actors and film makers getting together to make a kaiju movie. I wasn't going because I had a dance show on the Saturday evening, so I didn't look into it too closely. However, thanks to the lockdown, both KaijuFest and the dance show were cancelled, and the organisers came up with online alternatives. In the case of the dance show that was a YouTube livestream with videos of dancers and other performers. In the case of KaijuFest it was...RadioFest.

Rather than the full weekend that KaijuFest would have been, each RadioFest event lasts only four hours. A team of actors, writers and foley artists get together to produce a radio drama. The script is unfinished, the props are missing, nobody has been cast and corporate sponsorship rears its ugly head, but somehow it has to get done.

Three RadioFest events have already run, with three more to come, each with a different starting script. I signed up for event 3 with the title "I, Madman", joining the writers as Yolanda Hall, a writer of sleazy horror novels. The event began with everyone gathering in the green room for introductions, and then we split off into our respective groups.

My fellow writers were Matthew Scattergood, a writer of romance novels, and Vyron Savage, a writer of detective novels. We were given our outline script, a story about a man who finds a way to see the future and then sees his own death. Matthew wanted the script to be an exploration of one soul's descent into madness. Vyron wanted lots of hard boiled detective action. I wanted lots of horrible murder, and if at all possible, a love interest. Amazingly enough, we actually gelled pretty well in the end, besides an argument about whether or not we should have a happy ending.

Now and then one of the actors dropped into our room to ask questions and make requests. Request 1, for some more female characters, we were able to immediately grant, having already changed the lead character's name from John to Vivienne. A later request proved more problematic. The initial script started out in a gentleman's club, but Vyron thought it should be set in a dive bar on the mean streets of Chicago, and I heartily agreed. However, the actors had all been practicing their RP accents, and insisted they couldn't possibly do Chicago. The compromise was that it was now set in a pub in the east end of London - although the RP accents remained.

The script progressed through various iterations as we met with both actors and foley artists, and found a way to name drop our sponsor's product. And finally, we were ready to record.

Recording was done largely in one take, with occasional interruptions from the writers. ("When we said we wanted crowd noises, we didn't literally want you to say rhubarb!") And if the technology worked, the end result should have been recorded so we can all listen to it again.

With LARP off the table for at least the next couple of months, games like this are as close as we're going to get, and the organisers have done a superb job with RadioFest. I've signed up for event 6 to play Yolanda Hall again, and while all the writer slots are filled for event 5, I'm very tempted to give the foley artist game a try. While there's still a little room for improvement, the organisers are actively seeking feedback to make this the best game they can, and the fact they've pulled it together in such a short space of time is spectacular.

Eventually we'll all be allowed out again, and LARP can resume, but I hope online events like this will continue all the same.

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