Interview Juliet Jenkin talks about recording Woolworths – the audio play for the vNAF (National Arts Festival) Curated Programme

NOTE: The vNAF Curated Programme has been extended until July 16 2020. The vFringe has been extended until July 31.

Woolworths – the play – by Juliet Jenkin – premiered in 2017 at The UCT Arena, followed by the National Arts Festival Fringe, 2018, Theatre Arts Admin Collective, Cape Town, 2018 and Woordfees, Stellenbosch, 2019. I saw the play in February 2020 at The Courtyard Playhouse in Cape Town. Review link below. When I saw the play in February, I went away, wanting more. The text is richly textured and delicious- oozing satire and pungent images. I was thrilled to hear that Jenkin has recorded the play in audio format –without images/footage – sound only. It has not been easy for artists to transition from live performance to a digital stage. Some have chosen to film live – essentially making a recording of live performance. There are excellent outcomes. There are instances where it is less successful as the recording may render the live show “flat”. In going for audio only format, Jenkin has heightened her text and juxtaposed voice patterning/formations against the template of the last live production at The Courtyard. I found the process fascinating and am sharing what she told me to provide pointers for theatre makers in taking a stage show to audio format.

Juliet Jenkin provides insights into recording an audio version of a stage play:

TheCapeRobyn: Were you all together when you made the recording – the audio play?

Juliet Jenkin: We recorded in groups of two. There are seven in the cast. Six were in Cape Town. So we recorded in three groups of two. One of the cast – Hayley was in the Drakensberg and she recorded her piece separately. Our sound producer, Pete O’ Donoghue recoded it on seven channels and then put it all together. The way that everyone kept in time was from a recording of our last staging of the play. So, we played that in the background and the cast had to keep time with that stage performance so that everybody could basically have the same timing. And then Pete edited it and put in sound effects. It was quite difficult for them [the performers] as they had to watch – instead focussing on performance – the way sound forms on the sound screen – to keep in time and know when their part was coming in –which was quite difficult. They were amazing.

TheCapeRobyn: You had not submitted this play for what was supposed to be the physical National Arts Festival?

We were on in the NAF in 2018. I had not submitted it for this year’s festival. I would have never thought of doing a virtual/digital version of it. I would not have wanted to film it. Actually the audio idea came from doing it at the NAF in 2018. We had a blackout one night. We said that maybe we could do the show in the dark and that people could just listen to it. But then we couldn’t do it because of health and safety issues. So that was kind of the beginning of that idea – the audio play. And then because this opportunity came up – to create a work for the Virtual National Arts Festival, it became an opportunity. I feel bad saying “opportunity” – in the context of the shutdown of the arts industry – but it was an opportunity to be part of The Curated Programme. The NAF funded us and I am very grateful.”

Review links on TheCapeRobyn

Review for Woolworths – the audio play at the vNAF, click here:

Review for Woolworths – the stage play – as staged at The Courtyard Playhouse, February 2020: