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Rediscovering the thrill of radio drama

- Buhle Zuma

Arts student's play takes home SAfm radio drama prize.

Trains of Thought, a play penned by Wits student Neo Sibiya, was among the creative works that won a prize at the SAfm Drama Playwriting competition.

The competition called on creatives to produce a radio drama that would grip and thrill the ears of the station’s listeners.

Sibiya who is completing her Bachelor of Arts in Performing and Visual Arts (honours), was pleasantly surprised at winning third place.

“I feel quite honoured to have won a prize this big. Having my writing affirmed really made me aware of the power of writing. I've always loved to write and getting paid and recognised for something I'm passionate about is out of this world.”

Her play which explores relationships, marriage and love across the colour line and fate was aired on the station reaching listeners nation-wide.

In preparing a radio script, Sibiya who is more adept to writing for film and television took it upon herself to understand the medium.  

Early memories of seTswana radio dramas helped a little as well as tuning into local and international stations.

“Once I had done research on the form and conventions of radio drama I really began to appreciate it as a dying but amazing evolution of art and technology. It wasn't too difficult to adapt my original text thereafter as I have also written plays for stage and scripts for screen.  Radio is a beautiful amalgamation of the more imaginative aspects of both.”

Radio actress Mercedes McCambridge gave the best definition of radio when she said: “Radio is truly the theatre of the mind. The listener constructs the sets, colours them from his own palette, and sculpts and costumes the characters who perform in them.”

The biggest challenge, however, lies with those who produce content to awaken these senses.

The aspirant actress and writer wants to conquer the South African theatre, TV and film industries.

“I have been very fortunate to have been able to study both theatre and film/television at Wits, most drama departments offer separate degrees in these fields.

“My unique theoretical and practical exposures to these fields have opened my eyes.  I would love to write and act and one day produce for all three mediums. The immediate plan would be organising a company of players and creatives to form a collective producing work for all three mediums,” said Sibiya.

There is no doubt that this young talent will achieve her dreams. Sibiya matriculated with five distinctions from Bracken High in the east of Johannesburg.

Entries to the second SAfm Drama Playwriting competition are now open.