A highly engaging and artistically excellent play, written by Frances Poet, Sophia, is a biographical audio play about Sophia Jex-Blake. Created for Pitlochry Festival Theatre and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in collaboration with Naked Productions, the audio play tells of Sophia Jex-Blake, the first female doctor in Scotland, and founder of two medical schools in Britain.
More than just telling of Jex-Blake’s professional and political achievements, Sophia tells of the character and personal life of this strong and inspiring woman. The script by Poet is interesting, focused and tells its story well. Told from two points in history, it flashes forward and back, giving the audience a deeper look at the themes of the play. The audience follows Jex-Blake’s journey from student to professional doctor, the highs and lows along the way, and her lasting legacy.
The standout element of this audio play has to be the sound design, by Paul Cargill. The ambient sound and effects created by Sara Mattinson fit alongside the audio and music to create a full, rounded experience. The audience is transported into the story, its locations, its climaxes, its moods. Every element comes together, allowing the audience to listen and imagine and learn without being distracted. The music composed by Nicolette Macleod heightens certain scenes and transitions the audience between scenes.
The careful direction from Janys Chambers keeps the audio play energised and interesting. Each character is clearly defined, and the relationships between the characters are alive and real. The play is fresh in its sound, script, and dynamics. There is variety in the scenes that are each a journey within the bigger journey of the play.
Each actor brings energy and distinction to their character. Madeleine Worrall plays Sophia Jex-Blake, and uses timbre, pace, pause, and breath to convey her characters objectives, frustrations, and determinations. The rest of the cast do the same, with Natalie Grady as Ursula DuPre, and Clare Perkins as Edith Pechey standing out particularly. The audience can feel the passion of the characters through the passion of the cast.
Sophia is an enormous success. The secret of this faultlessly executed play is its cohesion as well as it’s interesting and informative story. The audio engages the imagination of the audience and really conjures the characters and places within the story. Working as one, the sound design, direction, cast, and music create a perfect piece, a prime example of how excellent an audio play can be as a genre.
Sophia is available on Sound Stage 27th – 29th August 2021.