• Tremolo is a podcast drama produced by Illumine Theatre in partnership with Wales Gene Park and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, supported by the Genetics Society. Written by Cardiff based playwright Lisa Parry, who is also Co-director of Illumine Theatre, this powerful podcast gives a real insight into the question of whether to have genetic testing and how one family copes with the diagnosis that may be hidden in their genes.

    Lisa Parry said; “Families throughout our communities have to make decisions such as those taken by my main character, teenager ‘Harri’, and his family, and we rarely hear about it. I really hope Tremolo helps families considering genetic testing options and makes understanding these options more accessible to the general public.”

    The podcast format appealed to Lisa as it means that young audiences could experience Tremolo in an intimate format. With one single actor presenting the story, she hopes it will be a powerful experience for listeners:

    “The intimacy of the podcast format really appealed to me – the play lands in the listener’s brain for them to visualise events. Music is so central to the play, and the fact the podcast will be delivered via popular streaming services really appealed to me too. I wanted Harri’s fragility to come across and, with this format, he’s speaking to listeners one-on-one.”

    Aimed primarily at young audiences aged 16+, but available to everyone, Tremolo is presented through the eyes of Harri, a caring teenage boy. Like many youngsters who have just completed their final A-Level exams, Harri is excited about the future; inter-railing with his friend and then off to Uni to follow his dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. Suddenly, his world is turned upside down when his loving Mam has been diagnosed with eFAD – Early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. Due to genetics, there’s a 50% chance that he and his younger sister Gwenllian may have it too.

“With genetics, and now genomics, ever more important in medicine and health, engaging with the public about this area is key. Wales Gene Park’s engagement team is delighted to work with the creative partners on this exciting project to highlight this important subject.” Rhian Morgan, Wales Gene Park.

As the play develops, we learn about the early signs of the condition. Through Harri’s eyes we also learn about the effect of this cruel disease on family relationships, financial pressures, daily life and dreams.

Science and medicine is a new area of work for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, but the company has thoroughly enjoyed working on the project, whilst exploring the use of podcasts to bring theatre to new and young audiences:

“Offering relevant creative content on different platforms is key to Theatr Gen moving forward. We want to develop our offer so that it includes not only a live theatre experience but also a wider reach and longer legacy that comes with digital platforms. Tremolo is also a captivating story. With the new curriculum in Wales it’s a great chance for the expressive arts to connect with science and technology, and teachers can take advantage of a bespoke bilingual and free educational resource created by Theatr Gen and Gene Park Wales to support this podcast drama in the classroom.”     Rhian Davies, Executive Producer Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru.

Harri is played by actor Gareth Elis; originally from Carmarthen, he trained at Guildford School of Acting. He has appeared on stage in productions for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Wales Millennium Centre, Cameron Mackintosh, Arad Goch and Leeway Productions. His TV credits include In My Skin (BBC Three/BBC Cymru), Mabinogi-Ogi (S4C) and The Light in the Hall/Y Golau (Channel 4/S4C). Tremolo is Gareth’s first ever podcast drama and he is the only the only actor in the production:

“I have really enjoyed being in Harri’s world, I’ve learnt a lot from it. We don’t tend to think about serious conditions like early onset Alzheimer’s and how it affects families, until we experience it ourselves. I hope that hearing Lisa Parry’s harrowing script through Harri’s voice will raise awareness of the condition, spark discussions amongst young people and remind us what’s really important in our busy lives.”

As the name suggests, music has been an integral part of this production from the outset. Harri’s younger sister Gwenllian loves playing the harp, and she spends hours practising her ‘tremolo’. As the play develops, so do the emotions. Director Zoë Waterman, who is Co-director of Illumine Theatre, explains how the combination of live harp music, composed and performed by internationally acclaimed Welsh harpist Eira Lynn Jones, was used to bring the story and emotions to life in this powerful production:

“In Tremolo it is Harri who takes us through the story; voiced by the fantastic Gareth Elis, we are inside his head as he grapples with the sudden and shocking news of his mum’s diagnosis and what that may mean for his own future. However, there is another sibling, his younger sister Gwenllian, who is also going through this turmoil, and Lisa has wonderfully written her as a musician – playing the harp and finding her escape through its strings. In doing this Lisa has allowed Eira Lynn Jones to tell Gwenllian’s story through the music she plays, her relationship to that material and her connection with the harp – it provides a beautiful texture to the play and gives us the two siblings’ stories side by side, vibrating off each other, like the tremolo of the title.” Zoë Waterman.

Tremolo was recorded at Hoot Studios and edited by Rhys Young. The podcast will be released on 3 March and will be available to listen and download via platforms including Spotify, I Tunes, AM & on Theatr Genedlaethol’s education resource ‘Casgliad Dysgu’, on the company website. Translated into Welsh by the Dramaturg and Assistant Director Branwen Davies, there will be a Welsh and English version to ensure a wide range of listeners can experience this powerful and important production.