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Simon Perkins' Lurgy  CD Cover Artwork

PATCHWUFF

By Andrew T. Smith
Starring Valerie Singleton
Music By Sandra Kerr

“And now, an extra programme for students of Module DD305: Simon Perkins’ Lurgy. In this lecture, Professor Ronald Beardyweirdy examines Simon’s subconscious mind, and asks whether the increasingly strange and surreal nature of his dreams is the sign of a deeper, more chronic psychological condition…”

It’s September 1974, and listless teenager Simon Perkins still hasn’t gone back to school. Suffering from a debilitating and unspecified “lurgy”, he drifts through daytime naps on his grandmother’s settee, his only company the babble of the Open University modules on TV. And when the sinister continuity announcer begins to initiate conversations with him, Simon also begins to question the state of his mental health.

But could the television provide unlikely salvation from his torpor? All Simon has to do is reach out and touch the screen...

An original audio drama from Mulgrave Audio, available on CD and to download

Running Time: 57 minutes approx

WATCH THE TRAILER:

BEHIND THE SCENES

The story behind Simon Perkins’ Lurgy began when members of the legendary Radiophonic Workshop took part in an onstage Q&A in Stockton-on-Tees. Hosting the event was local radio presenter, Bob Fischer. Bob was taken aback when Workshop veteran Roger Limb revealed that, prior to composing music for the likes of Doctor Who and The Box of Delights, he had worked at the BBC as a 1970s continuity announcer. And, amazingly, he could still remember some of his on-air links word for word...


Bob and his fellow North-eastern writers, Andrew Orton and Andrew T. Smith, were already discussing the idea of forming an audio drama production company. Suddenly, the idea for a play in which a troubled 1970s youngster begins having conversations with the television seemed like the perfect starting point. Bob's script for Simon Perkins’ Lurgy was completed between radio commitments, and the trio agreed they needed a bona fide Teesside teenager to bring the lead role to life.

Actor Ethan Warren (Simon) poses with the script for 'Simon Perkins' Lurgy'.

With the help of the Pauline Quirke Academy (PQA), auditions took place on a quiet Sunday morning in Darlington. And one candidate stood out, offering both a stunning emotional range and an unlikely appreciation of that grimy, mid-1970s period. Ethan Warren was only 14 when he was cast, but he boasted an extraordinary knowledge of vintage TV: the result of having grown up with a Doctor Who and horror-loving dad! Ethan was delighted to accept the part, and threw himself into preparations for the studio recording. Fuelled by tea and cake, intensive rehearsals took place in several accommodating local cafés...

Actor Ethan Warren rehearses 'Simon Perkins' Lurgy' with Bob Fischer and Andrew T. Smith
Mulgrave Audio's Andrew Orton and Bob Fischer discuss 'Simon Perkins' Lurgy' with actor Ethan Warren

The day also provided another major breakthrough. On the way to visit Roger, at a service station on the M25, Bob and the two Andrews finally agreed on a name for their company: Mulgrave Audio. Dozens of alternatives had been discussed and rejected, but naming the company after an area of North Yorkshire woodland riddled with strange folklore seemed an appropriate nod to the trio's fascination with ancient weirdness... and, indeed, their North-eastern roots.

 

The process of post-production then began in earnest. Teesside multi-instrumentalist Ben Hopkinson provided a main theme and beautiful sequences of incidental music. His remit? “Think Pink Floyd meets Peanuts”! Jez Butler and Polly Hulse – aka The Twelve Hour Foundation – composed and recorded 1970s-style themes for the play's spoof educational shows, and the results are gloriously authentic, fully utilising the duo's collection of vintage analogue synthesizers. And, to everyone's delight, Roger Limb himself composed and recorded additional music – including the affecting accompaniment to Simon's touching poem!

Roger Limb, musician and continuity announcer

Giving Simon's story an authentic 1970s feel presented the team with several challenges. But listen out for the sound of an original GPO746 rotary telephone, handily discovered in a Stockton charity shop, and the genuine clunks and white noise of an original early 1970s Philips TV set. Still in full working order, it’s usually hidden in the cupboard beneath Bob’s staircase – but has now been immortalised in Andrew Orton’s evocative cover artwork.  

Finally, Simon Perkins’ Lurgy is complete, and Mulgrave Audio couldn't be more grateful to everyone who has helped along the way. Obviously Ethan and Roger, but also Laura Lonsdale from the Pauline Quirke Academy, Ethan's dad Mike Warren, mastering engineer Chris Sharp, and Ghost Box Records co-founder Jim Jupp, who has provided invaluable advice and support.

 

Now – what can anyone tell us about the metamorphosis of the frog?

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