This week, local writer Alison Carr's first radio play airs on BBC Radio 4. Barbara Hodgson hears all about her Dolly Parton-inspired venture.
FIVE years ago, when Alison Carr first had the idea of writing a play about a Dolly Parton impersonator, she pictured it for the stage.
It was in 2006 that, as part of a New Writing North project to pitch play ideas, her story outline was first drawn up under the title Parton of the Waves.
But, over the coming months as she worked on it alongside her other work, Alison – author of such quirky comedy dramas as Mam, Dad, Monkey And Me and Edinburgh Fringe success Patricia Quinn Saved My Life – found this one stubbornly refused to shape up for some reason.
“It wasn’t working,” she tells me. “Sometimes, you’ve got to accept that.”
But when she was invited to submit an idea as part of a BBC radio project, the Dolly play came back to mind.
“I thought, ‘if I can get it to work this way then great, if not, then it’s not going to work ever and I’ll put it away and get on with my life’.”
But, from the A4 pitch she sent in, the powers that be immediately spotted its potential. And the upshot of what Alison calls “quite a laborious project” is that she is about to make her radio debut, with her play – renamed Dolly Would – going out on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday afternoon.
The Newcastle writer, who travelled down to London in November for its recording at Broadcasting House with the play’s cast – which includes local actresses Sharon Percy and Libby Davison – adds: “I feel quite proud that I hadn’t given up on it, that it did have potential, and I think it’s found its home on radio.
“It wasn’t meant to be a stage play.”
She adds: “I think the original title was too jokey for the way the play was going, then for the radio version I wanted a brand new fresh start and not to be bogged down by what had gone before. So I had to adapt and rewrite it.”
Approaching it from a different angle has brought to life the world of Dolly tribute act Denize (played by Percy) who’s been donning the wigs and costumes of the singer for 10 years, while the story takes in her partner Martin, a Kenny Rogers impersonator, and her sister Joanne, who takes her on a surprise road trip to a mystery destination.
“The very centre stayed the same. Denize starts to lose her sense of self and the line starts blurring between where Dolly ends and she starts.”