The Price of a Fish Supper

I'm in the middle of adapting one of my own stage plays - The Price of A Fish Supper - for BBC Radio 4, afternoon theatre. It's proving unexpectedly tricky. The original play is a 50 - 55 minute monologue that was first performed at the Oran Mor in Glasgow. It's set here in the west of Scotland and it's about an ex-fisherman, his life story, and his eventual coming to terms with his tragic past. It's also a play about the death of a traditional industry and the effect of this on a whole community- what Joyce Macmillan, in reviewing the original play, called the 'gentrification and heritage industry packaging of such a history of hard work, pain and tragedy.' Monologue it may have been, but the original play, though simply set, was very visual. And as Rab, actor Paul Morrow put in a performance of raw intensity.
I have been very resistant to changing the form of the play too much. In the original, Rab tells his own story, so we see and hear everything through the filter of his life-battered consciousness. I've been very anxious not to lose that, by introducing odds and ends of dialogue. Too much radio drama these days seems to consist of long passages of narration, interspersed with infrequent snatches of drama as though the playwright hadn't quite got the hang of what it means to 'dramatise' something. You know - show, don't tell! But of course the entire form of Fish Supper consisted of somebody telling - that was essentially what the play was about - a solitary man, opening up, drawing the audience into his world. I think I quite consciously referenced the ancient mariner, with the audience in the role of listeners. And certainly Rab has been alone on a wide wide sea.
One other 'challenge' concerns the swear words. As an ex fisherman, Rab does rather litter his conversations with the F word. Which is a non-starter for afternoon theatre. But he's never going to go round saying oh dearie, dearie me.... Solutions will have to be found, perhaps simply omitting the swear words altogether, rather than seeking less intense substitutes.
I soldier on. It's interesting work, but as I said, surprisingly tricky.

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