Series 1 of UNDONE is now available as a download from AUDIBLE / AMAZON
undone series one
'strange is good'
Undone was something I originally wrote in 2002 for Radio Light Entertainment, but didn’t really get anywhere. I wrote a pilot script and plotted a couple of other episodes, but like so many projects, developmental drift happened where no progress is really made because the next new thing has gone and attracted the attention.
Like some mossy abbey ruins the previously cool idea kind of gets forgotten about. But in 2005 Colin Anderson mentioned that BBC 7 were looking to commission some scifi comedy for the 7th Dimension strand and I remembered Undone. I had written some sketches for his innovative and exciting Milk Run show for Radio 1 and we had made a pilot for a romantic comedy series called Branches in 2004.
In late 2005 we heard a pilot programme for Undone had been commissioned and would we please now go and make the show. Yikes. The abbey ruins have a use.
First off we had to find a young comedy actress to play the lead role of Edna Turner. She had to be bright and funny and inquisitive, bolshy at times, scared at others. I had seen a show called Pray for the Souls of Martha and Veronica at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2005 and met one of the actresses after the show. This was Sarah Solemani, and I knew she’s be excellent as Edna. Just the right mix of confidence and sensitivity – the sort of things she showed again when she arrived in paint-spattered jeans and charmed loads of jaded hacks at the Radio Christmas party. Duncan Wisbey was the man of many voices in Dirty Fan Male, another show I saw at Edinburgh 2005 and he had the veratility and charm to be kind Carlo and poky Billy. I would play Tankerton and well, that was that.
Episode 1 - Mind The Gaps
Edna Turner has just moved to London to work on a listings magazine and is naturally excited. Her boss is the friendly Carlo and while her bedsit isn't exactly a palace, she gets down to work. An encounter at a music club with the strange Tankerton Slopes leads her to travel to the bizarre parallel city of Undone and a mission to send radical TV developer Marlboro Fagpacket back home.
Starring Sarah Solemani, Duncan Wisbey, Dan Antopolski and Ben Moor.
Produced by Colin Anderson.
We recorded the pilot in January 2006 without knowing whether BBC7 was going to commission any more episodes. So it’s the most naturally self contained of the shows. Edna arrives, meets Billy, Carlo and Tankerton and is sucked into the world of Undone. It all plays very neatly as an Alice in Wonderland crossed with Neverwhere crossed with Buffy crossed with lots of other things. I guess I’ve been influenced by a lifetime of scifi so I can be accused of ripping off any number of things for either the overall plot or individual scenes, but I would hope the show comes over as pretty different to a lot of the radio out there right now. We wanted to make a light scifi comedy drama that takes the listener on a journey and I think the pilot achieves that nicely.
As a half hour of radio, Mind the Gaps, (I didn’t think of titling the episodes un-something until way later) is gentle and absorbing. Virtually everything was recorded on location in and around the Primrose Hill house of Marijke, the assistant producer. She also did wonderful catering! Dan Antopolski was extremely funny as Marlboro, very unworldly. Sarah was just perfect as Edna – she brought so much more to the role than was on the page. And Duncan’s dual performance was great too. I was OK as Tankerton, but I think I get a little more bearable as the series progresses.
First broadcast - BBC 7 - 2nd October 2006
Episode 2 - Unappreciated
Edna learns more about Undone while putting together an issue of Get Out on her own. So she hardly has time to help Tankerton chase a naughty dog who steals sausages.
Starring Sarah Solemani, Duncan Wisbey, Montserrat Lombard, Tim Key and Ben Moor.
Produced by Colin Anderson.
Episode 2 works kind of as a second pilot for the series. It develops the Edna/Tankerton relationship, shows her at work and introduces a couple of characters who become important later on. As such it does its job fairly well and answers a few questions the listener may still have after the first episode, but overall I think I could have done it better. The chase sequence with the dog and the two pages is a bit clumsily written but there are some nice moments running through. Duncan plays the dog as if he was born to the part and anyone who knows him would agree. Sarah is very funny in the Heckhole sequence, in fact she’s very funny throughout. Kate and Grant turn up for the first time but oh so briefly. Tim Key is the shopowner too here – but in his performance he decided that character wears a moustache which I think you can really hear if you listen very carefully. Really.
I liked the Escher stuff in the script – we all feel like those monks sometime – Sarah played those bits beautifully. I was sorry we had to lose Carlo for a lot of the episode – I love what Duncan does with him but it was important to set Edna’s job up and see her under a little pressure. The in-store closed circuit illustration would have been a bigger thing, but the first draft of the script was way too long so like a lot of the series, it became a moment that is under-explained but adds to the weirdness.
First broadcast - BBC 7 - 3rd October 2006
Episode 3 - Unrivalled
All Edna wants is to be a good friend to Kate and rather more than that with Grant. But after an evening at the theatre things take a turn for the worse.
Starring Sarah Solemani, Duncan Wisbey, Montserrat Lombard, Tim Key, Emma Kennedy and Ben Moor.
Produced by Colin Anderson.
My personal favourite episode of the series for many reasons. The script was a lot of fun to write, has the neatest structure, and has a couple of lines I love. We had to cut back the early scene at Smart Alec's for reasons of length but it contained a sequence that really explained why Tankerton does what he does. It was to do with the amount of weirdness London can cope with and comparing it to the amount of crime an economy needs to make it work – we might try and find a space for it another time. Montserrat Lombard was just brilliant as Kate, Edna’s less imaginative ‘twin’ – she and Sarah had worked together before and their scenes were excellent. Tim Key was also fantastic – ambiguous and nice but he played Grant with a smart edge I liked. And Emma Kennedy got Jemima just right – dry and dismissive – and that’s her with the happy cooking video too. Duncan, as ever, great, especially with the burning phone. And Colin’s production is top notch – some lovely sweeps between the realities here.
Troubled eggs previously featured in the stage show Poppy Day. The segment at Grant’s play was originally going to be longer, but it features flies which may be a set up for episode 5 (I say ‘may be’, I mean is). Kate’s speech to Edna about her having made Undone all up is literally the midpoint of the entire series and gets the listener to question it too – everything you think you know hinges on this moment. The two actresses played this beautifully. And the old lady scenes are just great.
First broadcast - BBC 7 - 4th October 2006
Epsiode 4 - Unfamiliar
When Mum comes to visit, Edna does her best to keep the secret of Undone. But with Faceless Bureacrats changing the map of London and the National Indecisiveness Society or Association at large, it's not easy.
Starring Sarah Solemani, Duncan Wisbey, Emma Kennedy, Kevin Eldon, Richard Herring and Ben Moor.
Produced by Colin Anderson.
Episode 4 was originally written when the show was first mooted about 4 years ago and has a couple of problems which I totally blame myself for. You know what they are. Saying that, the story rattles along and this episode means a lot to me because of the cast Colin assembled. I first performed with Emma and Richard in the Oxford Revue of 1988 and one day I’ll tell the story of how that all came about. I have remained one of the biggest fans ever since and they have repaid my nerdiness with way much kindness and friendship and so when they agreed to be in a show I had written I was literally smiling with happiness. Kevin Eldon, as well as being Britain’s funniest Buddhist, is a friend who I travelled around America with back in the 1990s. Needless to say all three were brilliant in the show. Sarah was lovely in this episode too and Duncan’s performance as the Undone Carlo was another highlight.
The NISOA features here for the first time – it is mentioned also in Coelacanth which isn’t a bad thing as it suggests both stories happen in my own private universe, a place that nobody whatsoever has termed MOORLAND. The faceless bureaucrats’ plan would become clearer in the second series, as would the truth about Edna’s father, hinted at here. The boyband tunes were composed by Duncan who sang them to me and then I mauled them for the BBC audience. I thank you.
First broadcast - BBC 7 - 5th October 2006
Episode 5 - Unravelled
The consequences of Edna's decision at the end of episode 3 come back to roost as it looks like Tankerton has quit. But what's with all the flies?
Starring Sarah Solemani, Duncan Wisbey, Tim Key and Ben Moor.
Produced by Colin Anderson.
Endings suck, especially when you know you want some things to be resolved and not others. I loved writing these stories and I wanted Edna to find some answers and discover more questions, some of which we could explore in a second series. The return of Grant, the visit to Tankerton’s flat and a mirror sequence to the pilot where Edna runs out of the office gave some closure to the characters. And getting the two Carlos to meet and chat was a delight. Duncan was brilliant here (and that’s him playing the rehearsal room piano by the way for Grant – the man is a marvel). Sarah was just great as Edna as well – the fear, the awe, blooming great. And Tim Key makes Grant almost the hero of the piece. Colin’s talent shines through here too – the flies, obviously great, but that final moment is spine chilling.
When we heard the series was to be five episodes (including the pilot) I knew I wanted a sci-fi climax to the story. A few of the seeds for this episode were planted previously, but simultaneously the script has a bit of a rush to get to the action and an odd ploddiness of pacing. Tankerton’s wedding subplot should have either been emphasised much more or dropped completely – as it is it’s a bit wasted, but of course there was thought behind it (series 2. . .). But I think overall it's a good way to end the series, not so much a cliff hanger, but a cliff teeterer. I wanted audiences to want to know what happens next, but the final few moments provide a certain conclusion (relating back to what Kate accused Edna of in Episode 3) that I think listeners can make their own resolution to the overall plot.
First broadcast - BBC 7 - 6th October 2006