By Philip Shelley
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TRIBUTE PODCASTS are a series of 13 dramatic monologues between 7 & 15 minutes in length - all eulogies / reflections about the deaths (and lives) of fictional characters. One of the inspirations for this project - if that's the right word - was the series of deaths in 2016 - my mother, principally, but also David Bowie, Victoria Wood, Prince, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Terry Wogan, Gene Wilder etc etc And in September 2015, one of my son's best friends, 20 years old, died in a boating accident in New Zealand. He died saving someone else's life when he and a group of 10 friends got into dificulties kayaking on a lake. It was only James and one other American boy who died, the rest survived. And James may have survived if he hadn't swum back into the lake to try and save a friend. James was the nicest young guy you could ever meet. Gentle, kind, with a smile that lit up a room, his death at such a young age has really rocked his local community and of course devastated his family - his parents and two younger brothers. So this project is dedicated to the memory of JAMES MURPHY.
||CleanVALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING||This piece takes its name from John Donne's poem of the same name. I checked my emails on the way home from a conference on antibiotic resistance and there was a round robin email asking for my favourite poem. I sent them 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning', a beautiful, clever poem in which Donne argues that love creates a connection between people that is unbreakable. At one point he uses the image of a thread of gold that runs from one to the other: I've used this image with my children when they didn't want me to go away, and I think of this thread often when I'm far from my loved ones. It's comforting, because it allows me to feel a connection. That connection, that pulling on the heart strings, is what this piece is about. That, and the fast-approaching horror of the post-antibiotic era, where people will die from previously minor ailments. What strikes me most about this awful prospect is that it doesn�t make sense: we are programmed to believe things get better, not worse. So how do we cope when they don't? How do we cope when we lose someone we love, especially if it's a loss that seems unfair or illogical? We mostly accept nowadays that talking is helpful, but what if that goes against our instincts? And if talking about it is helpful, who should we be talking to? These are the questions at the heart of this piece.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanMY IMMORTAL MOTHER||Some writers say they have a 'knot� they keep worrying at that makes them write. Maybe my mother, Wendy, has been my knot. I always knew I would write about her after her death, when I was no longer caught up in the intense, all-consuming business of being her daughter. Tribute�s origins lie in the eulogy I wrote for her. Rather than a lachrymose farewell, this was largely a celebration of Wendy�s idiosyncrasies and wicked sense of humour. Instead of trying to choke through it myself, I had my sister-in-law, the accomplished actress Jessica Turner, 'perform� it - voicing my mother's many Lady Bracknell-esque quotes and capturing her curious ability to be both withering and warm in one exchange. As the many mourners knew her so well, I could use shorthand, but while further developing the eulogy into a dramatic piece for Tribute, I needed to explain Wendy�s quirks to strangers - thus her backstory and her relationship with her own impossible mother, the fascinating Flora, required an airing. Though I have much in common with my mother, getting inside her peculiar head to recreate her is sometimes hard. Furthermore, she was from a different world, almost a different planet. Her 87 years spanned some serious historical upheavals and took in experiences well beyond the ken of my generation: from the luxuries of colonial life to real poverty and hunger; from un-anaesthetised teeth pulling to adventures on troop ships; she both witnessed the horrors of and served in World War Two. She told a million stories I�ve yet to relate and through this project I�ve begun to reanimate a person that I at once knew deeply, but sometimes couldn�t fathom - a strange hybrid woman. At times it has been painful� let her rest. But also somehow necessary - the start of the unravelling of a knot that will probably be a lifetime�s work.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanA TRIBUTE TO MARCIE LANE||There are a few hats that I currently wear but I�m a mum first and foremost and I couldn�t imagine my life without my lovely boy. I still can�t quite believe I�ve got him and the idea of anything happening to him is just too awful� And so, incomplete families and lost children have dominated my recent work. I don�t know whether, by writing about them, I subconciously think I�ll be able to rid myself of all these fears but there it is and so there was always going to be this tangent to my 'Tribute�. I wanted to layer the script a bit though and to make sure the deceased got a rounded tribute that paid testament to her character. I hit on the device of reading out a statement / email, not meant for a funeral, which allowed me to present a deeper insight into the narrator, as well as into Marcie. I also liked the idea that there had been an argument and, through the recounting of it, we got to learn more about the two characters and their relationship. Finally, I wanted the reveal to be poignant and to strike a real chord. A few years ago, I read an interview with a woman who had lost her only child. In the piece she said that you�re an orphan if you lose your parents and a widow or widower if you lose a husband or wife. There isn�t a name for those who lose a child. Perhaps because it�s too awful to put into words.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanEULOGY FOR TRICIA SLATER||I spent a lot of years with a scattergun approach to life, doing a bit of this and a bit of that, but always leaning towards my creative side. I worked for BBC Radio Drama, wrote and directed plays, self published a novel, trained and then practised as an Alexander Technique teacher, and wrote marketing materials for small companies, to name a few. Then the unthinkable happened, I became a full time carer for, and then lost, my lovely husband. Life didn�t seem all that appealing for a while, and I decided I needed to find a focus, to try to rekindle my enthusiasm. So I am now half way through an MA in Writing for Performance and Publication at Leeds University. Wading through the treacle of grief, I started off trying to write very serious and worthy pieces, only to be told that they were funny. It seemed the more serious I thought I was being, the more people were finding amusing in the things my characters were saying. So I have come to the conclusion that embracing the comedy in life is no bad thing, and hence my contribution to Tribute. I had the idea during a dispute with my neighbour, who can be very awkward. At the same time, many of my friends were experiencing awful problems with their neighbours. There was the woman who was obsessive about where other people parked their cars, the man who couldn�t bear for anyone else to build anything, reporting everyone around him to the planners, even though he happily went round building all sorts without any sorts of permissions, and the woman who helped herself to other people�s gardens, manicuring them neatly like a municipal park, whether or not the garden�s owner liked it that way. The stress that went along with these disputes as they escalated brought with it awful misery. Knowing where I had been emotionally in the last couple of years, I could well imagine how a neighbour of such awfulness as the Tricia of my piece could impact upon the emotional wellbeing of all around her, especially if the setting was a small row of terraces cut off from the outside world. So this was the starting point for my piece - a woman trying very hard not to show her relief at the passing of her awful neighbour. I hope you enjoy it.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanBOOKMARK||The catalyst of my Tribute was a bookmark. I wanted my tribute to focus on the emotions that death/bereavement brings up. Death is so unfathomable our brain pulls in many different ways to understand it. The emotion of my piece comes from a few of the comedic memories within it being personal to me. Stories that make me smile when I think of them now, and were a joy to write, and more importantly get right in this Tribute. Alongside this is a twist that changes the whole genre of the piece. This allowed me to explore questions about the finality of death, and if we had a way to overcome it how we would use it. Finally, and most importantly, this becomes as much about the person giving the tribute, and shows the effect that people can have in the lives of others. What bigger Tribute could there be than shaping someone else's thoughts and life?||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanAN ORDERED LIFE||...is a thinly-veiled fictionalisation of my own father, who died 4 years ago. The trigger for this whole project though was the death of my mother who died in March. The moment when your second parent dies is a big one in anyone�s life, alerting you even more sharply to your own mortality, and it has made me think about the relationship my parents had with each other, about my relationship with both of them - and my relationships with my own 4 children. This is a monologue about communication, or the lack of it, and about a lack of resolution in relationships.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanAN IRRESISTIBLE FORCE||I met a sculptor on Twitter who told me that before unveiling her latest work she had to chop a piece off her statue because it offended a surviving relative of the subject. The ceremony would not have gone ahead if the appendage had stayed on. The artistic process is not sacred. If people can butt in, they will. Sometimes two hands are better than one. Artists often collaborate. We see it in the case of the master and apprentice. Occasionally the apprentice becomes more celebrated than the master. What happens to that pseudo-parental, curatorial relationship then? And when one dies, what sort of eulogy does the other give? What if the apprentice were the first to go?||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanMILESTONE||I originally wrote Milestone several years ago - before the Hillsborough Inquest was announced. When the Inquest verdicts were delivered I realised I could adapt the script with just a very small number of changes. I liked the idea of the character seeing the events as a catalyst for change - a theme referred to by many of the victims� families. Also, adding a practical dilemma in the character�s situation and the practical steps he identifies to help him deal with it, enabled me to demonstrate the long-term effects of the tragedy on many, many people - some of whom are no longer with us. Amidst his confusion of knowing what to feel after the verdicts he speaks directly to his Father - killed at Hillsborough - looks for answers to his immediate dilemma and pays tribute to him for introducing him to the wonderful game of football. It felt important to me to include in that conversation the fact that football continues to be a part of his family�s life. In my view, the 96 victims were murdered for being Working Class - a view shared by many - and I felt it was important to imbue the script with a recognition of this and the event�s place in the history of class struggle. In my attempt to do this I referred to other significant milestones and turning points in history to shine the light as brightly upon victories and triumphs as on those darker moments too. Economic policies and successive governments from the 1980�s onwards divided, disenfranchised and fragmented the Working Class, hampering efforts to fight back, and elevating the Establishment to a position of assumed impunity. The Hillsborough families victory - their determination, tenacity, dignity, and resourcefulness - demonstrates our ability to challenge injustice in the face of seemingly insurmountable structural barriers. Their victory - as well as being rightfully their own - is one for not only the Working Class and society at large, but for humanity itself.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanREX||Tributes are usually given by family members so my starting point was, �What if there isn�t any surviving family? Why might that be?� This led me to the idea of a character who had murdered his family, then died in prison. He may not have had many friends outside and, even if he did, they would have drifted away after so many years inside. He really was alone in the world. So who was going to give the tribute? The person who had spent most time with him lately: Allan, one of his prison officers. Allan understood Rex in some ways, and knew him on a professional basis. He didn�t like him much, for obvious reasons. Allan needs to look professional and disinterested. A prisoner has died in unexplained circumstances and someone has to say something. He is on duty. Like a family member giving a tribute, he glosses over some of the past. He can�t be as honest as he�d like to be. Maybe he needs to hide some things too. Allan is an experienced prison officer (40s or 50s). He has the face and voice of a seasoned officer. He�s seen it all. He can be cynical but knows how to play the game of political correctness and say the things management want to hear. He�s in uniform and proud of it. He is tough, because of what he has to deal with every day, but he also understands how people fall into a life of crime. There is more to him than meets the eye, and more to his version of events than he wants us to know. He wants us to hear the story first from him.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanGRANDPA||My tribute is actually based on parts of the life of my granddad Alan who sadly passed away in April 2016. The character is actually an amalgam of all of my grandparents- my English grandma was a codebreaker at Bletchley Park, my Polish/German grandma was the best storyteller that ever lived and did indeed escape Nazi Germany in a hurry. My Polish/German grandpa used to do magic tricks. My English grandpa used to bury sweets on the hills for me and my brothers to find. And all four of them loved to tell me different, exaggerated stories about their lives- apart from perversely, my English codebreaking Grandma, who had perhaps the most exciting story to tell. I loved writing the tribute as it felt cathartic but also actually a fitting and wonderful tribute, not just to my grandpa but my other grandparents too.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanA GREAT MAN||James Bellwether wonders how many people were called before someone picked up the phone to him to tell him that his own Dad was dying. That is what it is like being the child of a 'great� man. Always ignored, never valued for yourself. While James is angry, he is not bitter. He just has one thing to find out. What happened to the letters he wrote to his father whilst his father was a political prisoner? Did his father keep them or not? So starts James�s journey through his father�s life via a tour of his office. The questions are: will he find what he is looking for? And regardless of the outcome, what will it mean to James? What are the next steps for the 'not-so-great� man?||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanTURNING||A woman and her older sister, both in their late thirties, go back to Wales to visit their long-widowed father as he lies dying in his hospital bed. All three are estranged from each other and as the younger sister narrates the details of their final dealings, she reflects upon her father�s life, realising how little she knew him. The piece illustrates the aching failure of these remnants to bond finally at the last.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanTHE NAME ON THE BENCH||The year 2016 has seen a seemingly high number of notable deaths with inevitable eulogies and tributes following. I wanted to write about someone completely anonymous to the world at large but who meant something to those who loved him. I had the idea of somebody going through problems of their own glimpsing a name on a plaque on a park bench and this triggering a journey of discovery, both literal and in his own life. The central character is a little lost and has a few issues he hasn�t faced up to but his obsession with the name on the bench forces him to address them. We also see how this affects his relationship with his partner and discover more about his background.||26 1 2017||Free||View in iTunes|