‘The Skriker’ is a play written by Caryl Churchill. Folkloric, chilling, and linguistically labyrinthine, ‘The Skriker’ is an extremely interesting piece of drama, and one that I would desperately like to see for myself. I was therefore thrilled to hear that there was to be a version of it on BBC Radio 3. This isn’t a review of the play, as such, but rather its adaptation to radio, and an assessment of this particular performance. (It also happens to be revision for one of my summer exams, funnily enough.)
I was really glad to hear that Churchill herself adapted the play – I knew that she had done quite a lot of radio work before, but I hadn’t expected it, for some reason. There was a fascinating introduction to the play by Churchill herself, who explains her reasons for some of her stylistic choices, including the removal of all reference to the interpretative dance that goes on in the background of the play. I thought that this did make me pay attention to the language a lot more, and the relationship between Josie and Lily, which I hadn’t really paid much attention to before, due to my interest in the folkloric aspects of the interpretative dance. This made the themes of motherhood and post-natal depression to stand out in particular, rather than those of ecologic disaster. There may be differing opinion on this – personally, I thought it was very moving.
After the introduction, we’re launched headlong into the first monologue by the Skriker, played by Maxine Peake. Oh. My. God. I cannot imagine how long it took her to do that dialogue – notoriously tricky, she fills Churchill’s words with a variety of accents, age, and horror. I was absolutely blown away by her performance, and I desperately wish I could have seen her onstage. The other two actors are very good – but she is just absolutely phenomenal.
Other than the removal of the interpretative dance, it was a pretty normal rendering of the play. The sound effects were used very well, though I wasn’t quite sure of the banquet scene – seeing as they removed the exterior characters, I thought that the sudden interruption was a little too weird for my liking. However, it is a very weird play, so it’s understandable.
I would definitely listen to ‘The Skriker’ – it will still be available on BBC Radio 3 when this goes up so you still have time to listen to it. It’s worth it just for Maxine Peake’s extraordinary use of language, if nothing else.