Magazine article The Spectator

Sound and Vision

Magazine article The Spectator

Sound and Vision

Article excerpt

A tale of two dramas, both from the city and of our time but very different in execution. Déjà vu is the first bilingual radio play on the BBC, written in French and English, and produced in a new collaborative project between Radio Four and Arté, the internet-only TV and radio station. It goes out on air in the traditional way next Wednesday in the Afternoon Play slot on Radio Four, but the following day it will go 'live' on the internet on artéradio.

com, where you will be able to listen to it whenever you like, and as often as you like, over the next five years. It's a totally new kind of listening experience; not embedded in a moment of airtime but deliberately created to float in the atmosphere, available for playback at any time.

Claire and Ahmed have begun a crossChannel relationship after meeting in a bookshop in Paris. Claire lives in London and works at Canary Wharf; Ahmed is Algerian and lives with his mother in Paris. They meet at weekends, crossing the Channel by Eurostar; a quick and easy journey that gives no warning of the difficulties of comprehension when two such different people try to liaise. Ahmed has scars on his forehead and his arm, which he cannot, or will not, explain. Claire's French is not good enough to understand what Ahmed is telling her. We are in a post-7 July world and Ahmed as a dark-skinned Muslim bearing a rucksack and a stubbly beard is treated with suspicion whether in Paris or London.

But this is not just a play about two people falling in (and out of) love. 'We emphasise the richness of sound as a poetic tool, ' the executive director of artéradio. com explained. When his company makes a play, they record for eight days (compared to the BBC's two days in a studio), taking actors and the sound team out on to the streets as if they were making a film. What's so extraordinary about Déjà vu, directed by Lu Kemp and Christophe Rault, is that you can tell immediately whether Claire and Ahmed are in Paris or London not by whether they are talking in French or English but by the backdrop of sounds: St Pancras or the Gare du Nord, the Métro or the Underground, the noises beyond the window. Even the pigeons tell us we are in Paris, cooing their way through the love scene. …

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