Cupid, Draw Back Your Bow: Director's Blog

The Citizens Theatre's WAC Ensemble is a theatre company for care-experienced young adults. Their latest project is a horror radio play Cupid, Draw Back your Bow. This terrifying tale about a camping trip in Scotland that goes hellishly wrong will be available to listen to from 22 October. 

Ahead of the premiere, director Colin White told us more about how the group devised and recorded the play during lockdown.

When Playwright and Producer Martin Travers approached me to direct the horror audio play ‘Cupid Draw Back Your Bow’ with this stellar Cast and Creative Team it didn’t take much persuading – “Count me in!”. Any opportunity to channel my inner Ryan Murphy would not be denied.

Working mid-lockdown, in our bedrooms, cupboards or anywhere we could find creative calm, encouraged us collectively to generate work in ways we never thought possible. Weekly rehearsals via Zoom offered an anchor in our week, a welcome distraction from our altered routines.

It made sense to go back to basics and create an audio play – purely acoustic entertainment made popular in the 1920’s but with a 2020’s revamp. The process wasn’t always smooth, but any technical glitch or time lag was annulled by the resilience and unwavering loyalty of our talented performers.

During the initial stages of devising we approached each rehearsal with openness and playful energy. Individually we gathered stimulus material by capturing images whilst out on our daily walks and recording and archiving a bank of atmospheric sounds. These were uploaded to our shared space online and provoked much discussion and, of course, moments of hilarity amongst the cast. This shared library of audio and photographs would form the basis of several whole-group improvisations as we began to delve deeper into the horror realm. We explored the mechanics of dialogue, breathwork and, very importantly, techniques for communicating tension through the voice.

Next came the character building, plot development and storyboarding, with the cast involved at all stages of the decision-making process. We recorded everything as it was imperative that the performers ideas were heavily represented in the final output. We drew inspiration from existing horror anthologies and we shared Netflix recommendations at each session. I made sure to balance my research/horror movie consumption with more than a few episodes of ‘Schitt’s Creek’ – I’m a big fearty… and I own it!

All became real when Martin announced the completion of the first draft and a date for the online table read. Cast, Creative Team and Department Heads came together to hear the script aloud for the first time and WOW… just WOW! The text came alive in that moment and the performers inhabited their roles with such ease. This opportunity also afforded us with some valuable feedback, allowing us to fine-tune narratives and sharpen the dialogue ahead of recording.

Fast forward a few months and with a bulk of recorded material under our belts (all thanks to Rikki Traynor -Sound Designer) we were able to meet IRL at Cathkin Park to complete recording. For many of us this was our first in-person group session for quite some time. Delivering warm-ups and games to kickstart our final day sparked so much joy and will stick with me for some time. Again, we were faced with some challenges whilst recording outdoors, but no passing train, barking dog or ride-on garden mower could halt us in our quest for audio play perfection! We learned so much from Rikki, from his tricks in achieving gruesome sound effects to Sennheiser 416’s – he shared his impressive skillset with us and we were living for it.

The finished piece offers moments of light and shade, made possible by Rikki’s atmospheric sound design paired with Martin’s clever and naturalistic dialogue. But prepare yourself… this is scary stuff indeed and drops this Halloween - we can’t wait!

It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with this team, a definite highlight in my 14 years as Learning Tutor with the Citizens Theatre. When I reflect on this journey in the years to come, I won’t think of it as the time we lost out, more as the time that participation and creativity won! Enjoy listening.

Cupid, Draw Back your Bow will be available to listen to from 22 October. Find out more about this project and our WAC Ensemble.