Brixton actress, Adjoa Andoh, has been narrating Toni Morrison’s Beloved to the nation, via Radio 4’s flagship 15-minute drama series. We spoke to her about the experience of bringing this seminal novel to radio.
“I like telling stories when it’s just you and the listener’s ear” Adjoa Andoh enthuses, “radio is a medium that I love to work in and honours the writing in a way that a visual performances can’t.”
Invited by the director, Sasha Yevtushenko, to narrate the first radio adaptation of Toni Morrison’s seminal novel about slavery, trauma and mother-child bonds, Adjoa didn’t have to think twice. She knew the novel inside out and it remains one her all time favourite books. “I have a real affinity with the story…I think, like all great novels, it’s a universal tale which speaks to people who have suffered trauma and tried to come out the other side.”
The process of putting together a radio play is a tricky one. After an initial read through, the actors record their lines separately, and Adjoa read all her narration in two afternoons without a certain sense of the tone for each scene, or which sections would make the final edit.
“I wanted the narration to have a sense of Toni Morrison’s wisdom, combined with the geography of the place. It’s an incredibly complex novel to get into ten bite-sized chunks, but writer Patricia Cumper has done a fantastic job.”
Having given her all to her component part, Adjoa was still taken aback by the final edit: “It becomes a completely different thing when you listen to it altogether with the sounds and all the actors – I found myself listening to it like I hadn’t had any part in it!” One of the most moving aspects of the final adaptation is the choral music, arranged by fellow Brixtoner, Dominque Le Gendre, ensuring that the complex layers of spirituality are interwoven throughout.
Proud to have brought such an important story to a national audience, Adjoa sees Beloved as “a story is all about how our histories reverberate through us, through the generations. It’s undoubtedly one of the greatest novels of the Twentieth Century – well, it did win the Pulitzer Prize!”
Listen to all ten fifteen-minute episodes of Beloved on iPlayer, available for the next fortnight.