Emily Shen

Content warning: This article contains brief mention of bullying and suicide.

I have done some reasonably difficult things during my time in the world of Cambridge Theatre. I directed a musical of a Shakespeare play. I stood in for a sick actor in a child-murder musical at eight hours’ notice. I once accidentally auditioned for an all-female comedy show. But writing and producing a half-hour radio tragedy, Sorry for Your Loss, has been an entirely different, and much thornier, pricklier challenge.

“At the core of Sorry for Your Loss is an ethical dilemma”

The problem is basically that it’s nasty. I don’t want to give away the central intrigue of the story – I want you to be shocked! scandalised! aghast! – but the plot as a whole alludes to some dark business. Bullying, suicide, grief, greed, prostitution, and excrement – it’s a veritable who’s who of things English people don’t like talking about. And it’s only half an hour long.

Writer and producer, Joe Venable!Olivia Railton

The defence for this kind of bleakness is that it’s supposed to make us think. At the core of Sorry for Your Loss is an ethical dilemma; the ugliness of what surrounds it heightens the tension, challenges us to imagine what we might do in such a situation. To censor too much would be to blunt the horns of our dilemma.

I’m also claiming a precedent for this grimness in the tragedies of days gone by. Euripides’s Medea kills both her infant children. Titus Andronicus bakes his enemies into a pie and feeds them to their mother. I believe something less-than-excellent happens to Oedipus Rex, though I admit I’m hazy on the details.

“We've been lucky enough to find an ace composer in Sam MacDonald and a truly terrific director, Jenny Hay”

Tragedy asks questions we might not like to think about – but the process of trying to answer them can be really healthy. The ancient Athenians considered all this so important that the state funded actors in nine tragic plays every year, performed back-to-back over three (presumably exhausting) days. The whole city gathered to watch. That our current government funds no annual open-air festival of tragic plays is, I feel, a damning indictment of how far Western democracy has tumbled (though there is an argument to be made that the Conservative administration is itself a tragedy – or a comedy? – sorry, haven’t thought this one through).


Mountain View

How being a student writer showed me that my quirks have value

I suppose I’m supposing that tragedy is a place where civilisation can come together and, by confronting the darkest of evils, collectively affirm what good might look like, and resolve to build a world where it happens. Without making unbearably grandiose claims, I hope Sorry for Your Loss will make us think about the value we place on things, and how confronting the loss of a loved one might change those values. We’ve been lucky enough to find four simply outstanding actors to bring the play to life, along with an ace composer in Sam MacDonald and a truly terrific director, Jenny Hay. Tune in and you may be a little shocked – you may feel a little emptied by the end – but I hope you’ll agree that ultimately it was more worthwhile, at least, than my audition for Stockings Open Mic Night.

Sorry For Your Loss will be broadcast on Friday 8th May at 7pm on CamFM as well as the ADC YouTube Channel!