A new radio drama called Akiha Den Den created in the North-east is due to be launched by Aberdeen Performing Arts, starring Scots actor Ian McDiarmid, famed for his role as Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.
Creative Scotland are funding the full series of six episodes, which will offer opportunities to emerging writers and musicians in the north east, and will feature Ian as radio ham Mr Cuttings in all of them.
The pilot episode will be presented on Thursday, February 4 by writer Neil Cargill and musician and composer Simon James of black channels at a free and unticketed event. The doors will be open from 6.15pm.
Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA) has been working with Neil and Simon as part of their Artist Exchange programme, and as well as Ian, the cast of Akiha Den Den includes Scots actress Joy McAvoy (Angles’ Share, River City) and Banchory-born actor Ewan Petrie, who has performed on stages around Scotland.
Akiha Den Den is a strange abandoned community whose mysterious transmissions have been picked up by Cuttings and the words and music cut through the night like an arrow through thick fog. Someone, somewhere is trying contact you. Listen carefully – it may be the last voice you will ever hear.
At the Lemon Tree event on February 4, the audio of the programme will be played, although the cast will not be present, and there will be a live music accompaniment by Simon James on a synthesiser, conjuring up the transmissions from this other world.
Neil has a strong track record of creating innovative drama, music, feature and comedy programmes for BBC Radio and his work as a writer/director includes pioneering fusions of fact and fiction for BBC Radio 3 such as The Golden Demon, for saxophone virtuoso John Harle and Emotional Pictures, based on Wim Wenders' student diaries and starring Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton and Peter Capaldi.
His feature productions for BBC Radio 4 as writer/director include the story of World War l poet Isaac Rosenberg, Nobody Told Me To Oil My Boots, with Sir Antony Sher; The Bards of Somalia, presented by Rageh Omaar with performance by Gaarriye and Cabdullaahi Xasan Bootaan and Rory Bremner's investigation of the films of Jacques Tati Everyman Magnified, with Eric Sykes, Agnes-Catherine Poirier and Rowan Atkinson.
Neil’s music and comedy productions include several series developed for BBC Radio 3 with Ivor Cutler; drama for the World Service with Stanley Baxter; performance poetry with Vivian Stanshall for Radio 4 and readings for Radio 2 and Radio Scotland with Gregor Fisher.
Simon has wide-ranging professional experience producing music and creating and manipulating sound in a unique way and his sound designs, sound engineering and music have featured on many BBC Radio programmes.
He recently performed a live space ritual in Dome B at Herstmonceux Observatory - his Moog synthesiser recordings under the name The Simonsound often explore themes of science fantasy, space exploration and Cold War tension. This, and other records including The Beam, a radiophonic ride aboard a fantastical mid-century Monorail, have been championed by Nick Luscombe on BBC Radio 3.
Aberdeen Performing Arts has been developing The Lemon Tree into a producing hub for theatre in the North-east for some time and have long received shows from all over Scotland and the rest of the world.
“We are now thrilled to be creating theatre here ourselves,” said APA artistic producer Lesley Anne Rose. “Neil and Simon’s time with us forms part of our artist exchange programme and through these exchanges we provide theatre makers and artists with time and space to nurture and develop new ideas and new productions.
“In return they work with us to offer career development opportunities or workshops for young people in the region, take part in wider events in the city or help us build partnerships across the region.
“All of which are aimed at testing new ideas, developing new shows and talent in the North-east. We hope people will come along on February 4 to find out for themselves, first-hand, what can be achieved.”