RE-WRITTEN, REHEARSED AND RECORDED DURING LOCKDOWN

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Episode 1 now live online

It's here!  Roaches Coaches have made it through Lockdown and all the Covid-19 restrictions.  We rehearsed from home, we recorded remotely, socially distanced and here it is!

Listen to the podcast by clicking here.

Roaches Coaches is, set in a local bus depot which is struggling financially. The owner, Keith Roache, is going through a messy divorce and his life is equally messy. His employees are a bunch of wasters who don’t make his professional life very easy. A bungled attempt at arranging finance, by his hopeless PA, ends up with Keith being in hock to a ‘psychopathic loan shark’. Alongside attempts to prevent the depot closing, the principal characters are dealing with their own personal issues: trying to get a lumber, trying to lose weight, trying to kick off a Hollywood career, and trying to come to terms with moving from a remote island to the big smoke. 

You can read all about the characters and visit the Roaches Coaches website by clicking the button below.

How we made Roaches Coaches

In 2010, Ian Kidd and Alex Mcdowall created the Roaches Coaches sitcom as an entry for a BBC Writers' Room competition. Six TV episodes were written and then it was left to gather dust on a shelf.

 

Fast forward to 2020, when Ian dusted it off and thought it might make an interesting project to re-write it as a radio comedy for FADS to work on during the quiet summer months.  Who knew a global pandemic was on the horizon and on-stage drama would be suspended for the foreseeable future!

 

The Roaches Coaches team first gathered together in June 2020 with the approach of collaborating with each other, allowing the actors and production team to try out different story ideas, suggest changes, work on jokes and develop the pace and structure of the episodes. These collaborative meetings were held on an ad-hoc basis, rather than scheduling them at regular intervals, with re-writing and script developments happening in between times by Ian, with support from Sam Yoffe (Producer) and Laura Cranstoun (Assistant Director). SurveyMonkey was used to poll which dates would best suit the group, around other commitments that were constantly changing due to working and schooling at home. We observed that there were many other Zoom groups being set up at this time, and so we wanted to fit around peoples’ social and personal commitments too, as it was such an unprecedented time. 

While rewriting and rehearsing was taking place, Stuart Kidd was composing and recording the new Theme Tune for Roaches Coaches, which you can hear on Spotify.  Within days of this being released, it was played on a radio show in San Francisco.  Quite what the Californians made of a song about pickled eggs for breakfast, and bus drivers eating pieces we don't know.

 

Roaches Coaches could have been delivered and produced much more quickly and easily if it hadn’t been for Covid-19. However, we really feel that it was a fantastic time to work on it, as it was a positive focus for a number of members of the FADS club. The Zoom rehearsals have been lots of fun and have provided us quality social time with one another, as well as a collaborative focus, challenging us to develop flexible and problem-solving mindsets and continue doing what we all love – am dram!  These are experiences, which many people have been missing, have helped to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation at a challenging time. The cast and crew also keep in touch regularly via a WhatsApp group, often replying in character, sharing memes and jokes in line with the sitcom and plot! 

 

We asked the actors to take photographs of themselves dressed in character, not only to help them get into their roles, but also to help audiences visualise them. Our audiences are used to coming to see a dazzling stage production, usually all-singing and dancing, which is a very visual experience. However, as this is an audio production, we wanted to have some fun in showing off what our interpretations of the characters would look like.

You can see them for yourself, here.

 

In all, there are 3 episodes planned for Series 1 of Roaches Coaches. Episode 1 is complete and ‘live’, and the re-writing/recording of Episode 2 is underway. There are still challenges to be worked around, which are different from the last time, due to further changes in Lockdown restrictions. We are now unable to record small groups of people in the same physical space together. And so, instead, we have to record individuals one at a time, delivering equipment to homes (safely!) and recording each character remotely with Ian, Sam and Laura online, using special audio software, CleanFeed, which enables us to act, direct and record at a distance. This is a very different process from last time, as we won’t be able to see each other, as we do in Zoom rehearsals. Positively though, we have tried this process out before Christmas and it was very successful and still good fun!

 

In addition to the 3 main episodes, the actors were encouraged to come up with mini episodes of their own (if they wanted to), that they could write and record at home, using their mobile phones and headsets. Sarah Walker was the first to produce the Christmas ‘special’.  We have released two vignettes so far.

The show is available through a number of podcast platforms such as Spotify, Google, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Overcast, RadioPublic and PocketCasts.  We have plans to make it available on more platforms and it can also be heard by visiting the Anchor website: www.anchor.fm/roaches-coaches

The Cast and Crew

Manager Keith Roache is played by Nigel Pope, who has captured the desperation of the character brilliantly; his wife has left him, and he faces both personal and business financial hardship. Managing his employers is like herding cats and he finds himself in many awkward, though humorous, situations throughout the episodes.

 

Carol, Keith's ‘hopeless’ PA, is played by Sarah Walker; a motherly role to the other drivers but is best placed ‘playing’ sudoku or looking for a bargain on eBay rather than assisting Keith with the bus company. 

 

Mark the Shark, played by John Steel, is a ‘psychopathic loan shark’ who likes to put the rhyme into crime! John also plays other characters in Episodes 2 and 3, such as Vlad, the Russian bodybuilder, whom the drivers meet in a gym when trying to pass a health test for work.

 

There are 5 bus drivers, with many different personalities;

  • Kenny, played by Andy Barr, a sleazy womaniser who likes to wind up the other drivers and chat up the passengers on his bus run. 

  • Kevin Boland plays Jimmy, an older character who loves pies and is often found munching instead of driving. 

  • Jeannie Woodburn plays Mags, a character who is constantly trying to lose weight and gain a man.

  • Ian Kidd (also writer and director), plays Laurence Oliver, involved in the LGBTQ community, stereotypically loving musicals and desperate for a big Hollywood break.

  • Willie, played by Laura Cranstoun (also Assistant Director), is a naive and vulnerable character with a very strong accent, who has just arrived from Shetland; the other characters find it very difficult to understand him.

 

Pulling all the dialogue and scenes together is Anna Foran who plays the Narrator; sarcastic, cynical, and judgemental, she adds to the humour as she narrates the comings and goings of the characters.

There are also other characters, some of which only appear through one episode and others who are constant throughout the whole podcast. Some actors also play multiple characters, such as Gerry Eckersley who plays Lady Gallacher QC in episode 1, as well as the nurse, Gail Knight, in episode 2.

It’s easy to get to know the characters as the actors who play them have really brought them to life.  

The FADS actors have demonstrated real flexibility and commitment in this project, transferring skills from stage performing, to being voice actors. For many, they had never undertaken an audio performance before, however, they embraced the challenge and have had so much fun and personal development in the process!

We are very fortunate to have Sam Yoffe as our Producer.  Sam handled all the technical aspects, including specifying and purchasing new microphones, recording the dialogue, editing the recordings and compiling the episodes by adding sound effects. Ian and Sam have worked closely together (approximately 2 metres apart) throughout the project, problem solving, researching and applying new skills and techniques that FADS has never seen before as well as drinking coffee and eating Mint Kit-Kats.

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