Death Notices gets a mention for 2RPH in SMH

Fri, 8 June 2018

Eloise Snape and Air‘‘ DIED – At Portland Head, on the 15th instant, Mr James Davison, an old and respectable settler.’’ That was a death notice in the first edition of the Herald of April 18, 1831.

They’ve come a long way since then. ‘‘ Dearly beloved wife of ... a requiem mass will be held ... forever in our thoughts. No flowers.’’

At the end of the notices nowadays is a small panel that says ‘‘ If you know anyone who is print handicapped please let them know that The Sydney Morning Herald death summary is read on Radio 2RPH 1224AM & 100.5FM.’’ 

Hearing someone read out death notices may not be your preferred chill-out mix (2RPH also does news, travel, health and a book at bedtime) but, bizarrely, it forms the basis of a new play opening in Newtown on June 13. The production, AIR, is a black comedy about death and grief and is set in a community radio station.

Joanna Erskine was in a play-writing challenge a few years back. Each bard was given a copy of the Herald and asked to come up with a play within 24 hours after which time it would be performed in front of an audience.

It had been a quiet news day and the panel caught Joanne’s eye. ‘‘ I thought isn’t that an incredible thing, that someone sits there and reads the death notices and that people listen,’’ she said. ‘‘ I thought what is it like being that person who  reads the death notices every day? I am not normally a comic writer but to my surprise people laughed and I thought that was really important. Certainly in my experiences of death and grief, humour is always there.

"I first wrote it as a cathartic response to the death of my mum, and then seven years later my father died in very different circumstances and the play changed as a result of my own experience.’’

Annabel, the lead character played by Eloise Snape, reads out the death notices and one evening, during the graveyard shift, some interesting things start to happen.

"What happens to disrupt Annabel’s world is that the station phone rings and she answers it on air, which opens up a line of communication between the world of the living and the world of the dead,’’ Ms Erskine said.

"Without giving too much away, we find out what has happened in her life and what her relationship with grief is and what ghosts she has in the closet. But ... it is about everyone’s grief and how we all deal with grief in different ways.’’

Ms Snape used to be an announcer on Radio 2RPH. ‘‘ I read articles from women’s magazines,’’ she said.

To listen to a recording of the article being read on 2RPH, please click here

(Pictured: The original article read as part of The Sydney Morning Herald shift on June 7, 2018)