Jonathan Powell for The Backwards People

So here we are, apart together in the post-apocalyptic mist of 2021. And it’s a real pea souper. I suspect what happened was that sometime early last year, without realising it, I tripped over a hyperactive white rabbit and tumbled down a hole into an unrelenting, Kafkaesque nightmare. Then, with a kind word and a sage smile, the rabbit was kicked in after me, leaving his pocket-watch on the grassy verge, ticking feebly on.

Last March, after barely a week underground, creative captives across the world began to share their feelings of being stuck ‘on pause’. But sit tight, we were told, weather the storm, and it will all be over by Christmas. Here we are, a year on, tapping away at the keyboard and merging with the chair. I think the rabbit’s taken himself to Tesco for some fresh air. His very important date was cancelled, so he has the time. He might still be late. Is this really what it looks like, a world on pause? The monumental debts and the mounting deaths don’t seem to agree. So, if not paused, what is it? What’s really happening to us?

“The Backwards People’s foray into radio promises to be a truly immersive and unique experience.”

Enter The Backwards People, the Week-1-stage-play-turned-Week-2-radio-drama salvaged from the shrapnel of the ADC’s latest round of lockdown losses. Luckily for me, Captain, Teacher, Chef, and the newly recruited Poet proved to be an adaptable bunch, and as they’ve been with me for several years, in one form or another, they were more than happy to make the leap to audio. Things have to move forwards, after all.

Jonathan Powell for The Backwards People

Set in the wake of an unknown catastrophe, the drama follows the lives of four survivors as they attempt to piece their fragmented history back together. As a series of surreal scenes ensue – featuring a cryptic Child, an intrusive piano, and a viscous sea monster – Poet starts to realise that there is something very wrong with his memory. It simply isn’t there.

“We should try our best to remember every mistake and every lesson, so that we...find something new, something human, and something forwards.”

While the radio play format was never the vision, I’ve always loved audio drama for its versatility, its scope, and the focus it throws on character and voice. And with three composer/sound designers producing original music and foley, not to mention the stellar work of our five actors and Dixie McDevitt’s dynamite direction, The Backwards People’s foray into radio promises to be a truly immersive and unique experience.

I hope, and I’m sure, that this will not be the last of The Backwards People. They don’t like to be left alone, after all. But for now, sound is the medium of the moment. This play demands to be heard, and if you do listen, you’ll see why…


Mountain View

I Swear I'm Not Doing A Bit (or my manservant)

I can’t say any more without giving the game away. But I will say this. Refresh your newsfeed. Watch the chain-gangs dragging themselves from one oasis to the next, complaining, complying and changing direction at the flick of a slide or the words of a friend. Round and round they go. Because the world isn’t trapped on pause. For right or wrong, it’s trapped in a cycle. History repeats, and so do we. Perhaps this is a necessary cycle. Perhaps it is an endless cycle. Down the rabbit hole, how are we to know?

Like the Backwards People, we’re all yearning at heart to turn away from the chaos, to find the way out of the rabbit hole, to seize the pocket-watch and get life moving again, exactly as it was. Perhaps when the mist finally clears, we’ll look back at this miserable gap of photographs and time and forget it was there at all – we’re usually pretty good at that. But when it’s safe and it does, we should try our best to remember every oasis, every mistake and every lesson, so that we don’t just take hold of the old and build back better, but find something new, something human, and something forwards.