The Dark House by Izzy Mant

Top director and producer Izzy Mant joins The PTC masterclass advice programme next month. Here’s info on her project, the groundbreaking radio drama…

The Dark House

The Dark House is a ground-breaking interactive radio drama in which the audience dictate how the drama is played out. Three people are trapped in a haunted building. As the listeners decide who to put their trust in, they can vote by text message or landline to choose which character’s point of view is heard in this chilling ghost story.

Lucy, a local radio reporter, investigates a so-called haunted flat in Clerkenwell. During her broadcast the lights go out and, assuming it’s a set-up, she plays along. Then she loses contact with the radio station.

Lucy hears the voice of a child locked in the bedroom asking to be let out. Then there’s a man at the door who says he looks after the building. Trapped in an increasingly frightening place, Lucy starts to unravel an eerie mystery.

Listeners can vote whenever they like, and as many times as they like, throughout the drama. The phone and text numbers will be advertised in listings and on the Radio 4 website. Text message voters simply text the name of the character whose perspective they want to hear: Lucy, Kelly or Jim. By phone, callers will be asked to press one of three keys for each of the three characters.

Every three minutes the votes from phone and text are collated to determine which character’s point of view is heard next. When the majority vote tips, the drama switches from inside one character’s head to inside another’s. We hear their inner thoughts with the dialogue and action played out from their physical location in the building.

The interactivity is not about influencing the story, but responding to it and sharing that response with the rest of the listening public. Those who choose not to interact can just sit back and enjoy the drama as it unfolds.

Whatever the listeners do, Lucy, Jim and Kelly are destined for the same fate.

The BBC is working with technical partners for the programme’s voting system. This will collate the votes from SMS and phones, and deliver feedback to the producer in studio, to switch the streams, and the webpage where statistics will be updated live.

The Dark House will be recorded using a binaural recording technique. Based on the principals of human hearing, binaural recordings are made by placing microphones near the actor’s ears. Those listening on stereo equipment will experience spatialised 3D sound, immersing the listener in the Dark House.

“The Dark House” is the brainchild of producers Izzy Mant and Nick Ryan and developed in collaboration with BBC Radio Drama and BBC Creative Research & Development. Izzy Mant is a theatre/radio director, a pioneer of new writing, probably best known for directing Kelly Brookís stage debut at Riverside Studios. Nick Ryan is a sound designer and composer whose credits include soundtracks for Channel 4, LWT, Sony and Odeon Cinemas titles.

The Dark House is written by Mike Walker whose credits include the Sony Award winners Different States and Alpha, plus acclaimed BBC Radio 4 adaptations of War and Peace, The Tin Drum and The African Queen.

The cast includes Claudie Blakley as Lucy – perhaps best-known for her roles as Maud in Gosford Park and Kellie in BBC 1’s Playing the Field; Alan Ford plays Jim ñ his film work includes the distinctive narrating voice of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and roles in Snatch and The Long Good Friday – TV work includes appearances in Waking the Dead and William and Mary;
Connie Gurie is the child, Kelly. Connie has numerous radio drama credits to her name including Agatha Christie’s The Dressmaker’s Doll , The God Of Love and Michael Butt’s The Kensington Pilgrims.

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