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Theatre made the radio stars

Next week, young playwrights across Scotland will hear the results of their collaboration on radio, reports Brian Hayward.

TAG Theatre Company director James Brining is excited about getting afternoon airtime on BBC Radio 4 for a play by three groups of young writers across Scotland.

"An audience of half a million, plus the listeners to the World Service, is a terrific privilege and wonderful exposure for these young people," he says.

The afternoon play slots are fiercely fought over and no doubt Mr Brining's collaborator in this project, Glasgow-based BBC radio drama producer David Ian Neville, helped. TAGlines will be broadcast on Monday, March 17.

Together the pair devised an ingenious scheme in which writers based in Skye, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and ranging in age from 14 to 25, could share in developing and scripting an hour-long drama. With three experienced writers - Jim Eldridge, Mike Harris and Louise Ironside - to guide them, the writers created characters and dialogue for a story about a young man who leaves school on Skye to go to university in Aberdeen, only to abandon his studies to follow a dream of being a DJ in Edinburgh.

Each group handled the episode in their area, with the freedom to develop the story in their own way. This sparked some interesting interaction between them.

The Skye Young Writers Group set the young man and his sister in a problem family where their father was Scottish and their mother Russian. This was to complicate the problem of identity, which was one of the themes picked out in the preliminary workshops. In Edinburgh, the Traverse Theatre Young Writers Group, one of whom is Russian, took this up and put the hero in the care of a kindly impresario who was also Russian, allowing the young man to cement the friendship with phrases learned at his mother's knee.

Not much in the play will be bring comfort to interested adults. School and teachers are not mentioned and the hero's parents, by turns possessive or indifferent to their children, are quarrelling their way to divorce.

University is seemingly little more than an expensive way to buy unemployment and student grants are to pay for pub crawls, while popular music is vehemently used as a social identifier. In short, the play gives an authentic insight into the angst of an alienated school leaver.

Mr Neville produced a talented cast for Mr Brining to direct, but he felt time passed more rapidly in the studio than on stage. Mr Brining will be back on familiar ground in the next phase of the project, as the three groups have been invited to create stage plays on the same themes.

The Skye writers are staying with the idea of young people setting off to shape their careers and lives. The Edinburgh group have taken the location of Waverley Station, where the radio play ends, and made up another story.

More imaginatively, the Lemon Tree Young Writers Group in Aberdeen have contributed a handful of shorter plays on the theme of identity, developing the career of Kimberley, the reckless young lady of the radio play.

A TAG team of five actors will perform readings of the scripts to the writers and their friends at the Aros in Portree, Skye, the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen and the Traverse Theatre on March 18, 21 and 22 respectively.

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