Virginia Woolf's The Waves: A Radio Drama

The Waves has been a long time in the making. I began the project back in 2013 for my university radio station, KCLRadio. The station manager at the time approached me to write a fictional serial for the semester ahead; I had some ideas for original works and was r eally keen to transform a short story I had written into a radio play. But I was also re-reading a book from my course that had peaked my interest - ‘The Waves’ by Virginia Woolf.

‘The Waves’ is a novel that explores the lives of six friends who have known each other since childhood: Bernard, Neville, Ginny, Susan, Rhoda and Louis. As the story progresses, the friends go off and live their lives separately and each character is distinguished by their different paths: some become spouses and then parents; others live alone, unattached to the material world around them. In the end, a sort of dissolution binds them together and shows them to be shades of the same whole person, instead of the individuals they once thought they were. It’s a very incorporeal sort of novel that explores themes of identity, sexuality, parenthood, work and death.

So-called “undaptable”, The Waves was a novel I could hear on the radio. All the pieces were there in the text: the characters, the dialogue, the action. I just needed an overarching plot. So I decided they would be six friends coming together later in life at a beach and having dinner in the shallow of the ocean. Kind of like that scene from ‘My Family and Other Animals’ (2005).

I set about writing the script in the summer, just in time for my third year. I came up with six episodes (that became eight in post) and even wrote a song for the first episode based on Camille’s song ‘Allez Allez Allez’. In 2013, I cast the piece and began recording. Half of the episodes were released in semester one and half in semester two. Then they were all uploaded to Mixcloud. This month I decided to revisit the project and upload the episodes to YouTube with a new artwork I’d created. The playlist is below, so you can listen if you’d like to. I don’t profess to be an expert in audio-editing or sound so there are some hiccups, but the script is hopefully an interesting interpretation of a fantastic piece of literature.

The Waves was nominated for national Student Radio Award under the Best Speech Programming category. While it did not win, I was thrilled to be invited to the awards show and included in the nominations.

Sam Cleal