Thomas Bailey will direct Cunch by Marika McKennell, the final audio play in the first series of Written on the Waves. The production stars Dominic Applewhite (Scratch/Buyer), Marika McKennell (Janie), Katy Secombe (Yaga/Dog Walker/Receptionist), and Alice Vilanculo (Lolita).
Written on the Waves was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, where many creative possibilities ceased, unceremoniously and indefinitely. It is a celebration of storytelling featuring eight world première audio plays exploring a wide range of ideas and probing new forms
Cunch, directed by Thomas Bailey, is available online.
You’re directing Cunch, the final play in the Written on the Waves series, what can you tell us about the play?
It’s the story of Janie and Lolita, two London teenagers ‘going cunch’: short for countryside, meaning a county lines drug-dealing mission. They’ve got a load of cocaine, and they’ll be selling it to middle-class clients. More importantly, they’ll also see a sheep for the first time…
How do you think this story will resonate?
Despite its complex subject matter, Cunch is, at its core, an adventure story. It’s a tale of escape, of plunging headfirst into the unknown, and of expanding your psychic horizon as a result. Being somewhere new can help us become someone new. We’ve all been deprived of that experience recently.
Is this your first time directing an audio play, and will you need to approach it differently?
Yes, first time directing an audio play. When directing live work, you have to allocate some brain space to imagining how a first-time spectator will receive the story being shown. With an audio play, you have to enter into that future audience member’s visual imagination, and ask: how can we use sound to make their internal cinema as vivid as possible? That’s the biggest difference. And it’s been great working in a super focussed way with our brilliant sound designer, Laura Howard.
What is it about Marika McKennell’s writing that’s really inspired you?
I’ve wanted to work with Marika since seeing a scratch performance of her play E8, at the North Wall Arts Centre in 2016. The dialogue was fiery, alive, hilarious – and the emotional core of the story was rooted in Marika’s experience working in a Pupil Referral Unit. When Marika mentioned a ‘fantasy story about county lines’ I knew it would be special.
What’s it been like working with the cast?
Alice Vilanculo, who plays Lolita, was the star of E8, and I’d done some R&D with her just before lockdown. She’s a staggeringly natural and inventive performer. I was really delighted we convinced Marika to read Janie; she is also a performance poet, so the rhythm of the text sounds incredible coming from her. It was loads of fun working with Katy Secombe and Dominic Applewhite too – we had a very silly time creating the host of colourful characters that Janie and Lolita meet along the way.
What would you say to anyone thinking of listening to Cunch?
I’d never come across a story about County Lines from the perspective of the teenagers that get caught up in it. I think it’s quite powerful to be taken along for the ride – to experience the horror, as well as the appeal, first-hand.