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Audio Clips

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I've made some MP3 audio clips of Headcrash so you can get some idea of what this wonderful play sounds like.

- BBC Intro (646 kb)
- Opening Lines (417 kb)
- Shooting (1756 kb)
- Field Controller (949 kb)
- Luka and Assistant (1020 kb)
- Next Level (668 kb)
- Farewell (318 kb)


If you want to hear the whole play then read this.

Plot Summary

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Here's a short summary of Headcrash. Don't worry too much about spoilers because even after you've heard the whole thing you still can't tell what is going on and nothing much dramatic happens anyway.

Scene 1: Boy and Luka on the road

Boy and Luka are driving through a post apocolyptic landscape. They shoot up other car drivers. Luka is in bandages, burnt and bleeding but OK. Boy has started to keep a record of what is going on. When they hit people a computer voice in the car tells them they've got a score. They stop for the night to sleep.

Scene 2: Crazies

As they drive through a tunnel they're attacked by mutant like crazies. As the crazies are about to break through they are "swopped" to a another car somewhere else. Boy says it's like someones watching over them.

Scene 3: Rats

Another tunnel. Its rats this time, swarming all over their car. Killing occupants of others. The rats pass. They drive on.

Scene 4: Creep Cop

They're pulled over by the police for "random hitting" of pedestrians - "while using the line share adaptor". The policeman writes poetry - apparantly a lot of others do too.

Scene 5: TPS and Mother

Boy stops at a lost city. He's been thinking about staying in one, giving up on the road. Luka thinks he's going to leave her as she's breaking up (literally). They hear a telephone ring. The person on the phone says she's Boys mother and that he must get back on the road. Keep hitting.

Scene 6: Chicken Switch

More crazies. Boy hits the chicken switch. Luka feels its humiliating. Their score has been forfeit and transferred to non-volatile memory.

Scene 7: The Field Controller

They are pulled over by the cops again. This time a Field Controller and assistant arrive. She tells Boy that "if you don’t hit, you don’t score. And if you don’t score then well, where does that leave us. Well it doesn’t leave us in a very nice situation. It leaves us looking rather silly.” They take Luka away ( but not before she kills the assistant), Boy gets given a new and better car.

Scene 8: Mother Again

Boy is enjoying the new car, the new landscape. He meets his mother again. She tells him that he's spent too much time on the lower levels. That “there are more levels than you ever dreamed of. This is nowhere, this is what you might call the desert. All sorts of other levels. Some people call them worlds – but I’m not that grand. But you’re going to see them Boy." She also tells him he's not mean enough to do really well. That he's got a crack at the title. She used to be a hitter too - she's so good that she takes out a car just by looking at it. She does a "handshake" with Boy, then kisses him - "for old times sake".

Scene 9 Home Run

Luka has his mothers ability. Hitting cars just by looking at them. He's really in to it. he makes the home run. Boy is jubilant, carried away with it. he's jubilant.

Controller “Thanks Boy, you turned into a real bastard. Good hitting.”

Boy: “Get out and smoke it sucker. Blow everything away”.

And to the listener

Boy: “And just a word of advice to you. You keep out of my way and just make sure I don’t see you. OK.”


Scene 8: Mother Again
Scene 9: Home Run

Full Treatment

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[Note: Scene structure is my own ]

Scene 1: Boy and Luka on the road
Scene 2: Crazies
Scene 3: Rats
Scene 4: Creep Cop
Scene 5: TPS and Mother
Scene 6: Chicken Switch
Scene 7: The Field Controller
Scene 8: Mother Again
Scene 9: Home Run


Scene 1

Intro music.

Boy and Luka are in their car.

Boy: “I was born in a highway pile up. A lot of us were. I could drive before I could walk.”

Boy makes it into the second lane with ease. And the third. Luka is wrapped in bandages. They pass the “lost cities”. Luka thinks about the fact that people used to live in them. The bandages came from there. What else is in there?

They see glowing. Fire.

Boy talks about the machines piled up in the lost cities. The small creatures trying to get around without legs. They found the bandages in a draw filled with medicants. Boy says he feels he should keep a running record of the thoughts he has.

Boy: “I look and record it. It gives life to her where otherwise she might not have had life. That’s a scary thought.”

Boy: “You look at things now in the present and they make you think of the past.”

They pass talking road signs.

Luka: “You missed her. You missed the pedestrian….Oh it’s all right, the truck got her”.

They force a car off the road, into the fire. Luka asks to drive up along side some “bozo”.

A disembodied computer/car voice speaks. “Potential hit… if you wish to fire please roll down your window.” They slow down alongside the middle age man and wife “she looks like she’s been dead a real long time”. His hand is pressed down on the “chicken switch”.

Luka blows the man away. “One hit Boy. That’s 4 more for a unit score” says the voice.

Luka is in pain. Boy tells her to keep her stuff tidy. They lose stuff when they get “swopped”.

Fourth lane. Luka takes out another truck.

Luka: “Your fate beckons.”
Boy: “Fate?”

Boy asks her about the word – she doesn’t know what it means.

Boy had been contemplating suicide before he found this “record”.

Boy: “Why should I kill myself when there are so many who need killing first… The other people on the road just take up space….People talk of day and night but it’s just the same shitty colour”.

They pull up by the road side for a sleep. The only sound is that of the skaters who come out at night. Luka’s trigger finger twitches as she sleeps. Beneath her bandages she’s all burns and blood.

Luka wakes and goes to shoot skaters. Boy stays. “Going to think up some new words?” she taunts. The skaters have numbers, Luka wants to find number 1000 and shoot him. A night drifter glides past in his car.

Scene 2

A wide tunnel, 6 lanes. Wild black and brown crazies try to throw lines on to the car. Luka tries to shoot at them. They start throwing acid. The computer voice tells them they’ve been hit, not to stop, not to change lanes. The car hasn’t got the speed to out run them. They’re on the car, trying to break in. At first they can’t find the machete, Boys angry, but Luka finally finds it. She starts hacking.

Boy: “You’re getting blood on the windscreen”.
Luka: “Well some of these have got too much in them”.

The crazies begin to break in, some with no legs, some no arms

Luka: “They’re not even in one piece. How disgusting.”

But just as it looks like they’re going to be overpowered they “swop”.

Voice: “Hit withheld during to priority transfer. Hit transferred to non-volatile memory”.

Boy asks what happened, whether Luka pressed the chicken switch. She says she didn’t.

They’re now in a faster car, a Cadillac. They listen to the radio. Boy talks about the swop. How whenever they get in to trouble they are “swopped” without having to do anything about it. “Maybe somebody’s looking after us”.

They see another lost city. Boy asks why the inhabitants don’t leave. They haven’t got legs. “We haven’t got ?brilliant? legs either.” Luka tells him to just concentrate on the road.

Boy: “I’m a growing Boy. I’ve got to think about things.”

Luka: “Who say’s you’re a growing Boy”.

Scene 3

They come up to a tunnel – a major hazard as Boy sees it. The tunnels go on for 20 – 30 days. Sometimes there’s water streaming down, sometimes fire.

Boy: “Who knows what they go under”.

In the tunnel rats start to swarm over them. They really freak Luka out as they spill over the car. They get into a neighbouring car, devouring the inhabitants. Luka is really strung out. The computer keeps telling them to stay put, to stay in the car, and not to press the chicken switch while stationary. Luka sucks her thumb in comfort, but when she sees Boy looking at her she’s suspicious.

Luka: “You think I’m cracking up, don’t you”
Boy: “You don’t like rats. It’s not a crime.”
Luka: “What’s crime?”
Boy: “I don’t know. It’s a new word”
Luka: “It’s a new word because you say so”
Boy: “I mean it’s new to me.”

They’re finally able to drive on.

Computer: “Pedestrians in all lanes”

Luka starts shooting the pedestrians, but is told there is “No Score”. The cars behind line up to run over the pedestrians.

Boy swings over to the fast lane, up to the fourth.

Boy: “I make it with ease into fourth. The cars thin out in the fourth. You can get a better perspective on things. Go faster. Fire on them better.Three more lanes to the best lane of all. Where no one sees you, you’re just a blur as you sweep past and knock them over.”


Scene 4

There’s a siren and the police pull them over – Luka wants to fire on them.

The policeman speaks with a deep synthesised voice. He tells them that they’ve been “random hitting” - while using the LSA, ignoring that they’re running parallel. He’s talking about “Interblock gaps” and “multiplexer” stuff.

Boy: “They keep stopping us and telling us all about they’re problems….Who cares what problems creeps have. There you are just driving and killing people, just minding your own business when they pull you up and tell you you’ve been ‘abusing the line sharing adaptor’ and stuff like that.”

The policeman is talking about low level recovery and the fact that “you’re in for a home run this session, you know. So now you know why I had to handshake with you.”

Policeman: “I’ve got feelings too you know. I like poetry. I’ve had it published and everything. What do you do”.

[shades of HHGTTG]

Luka threatens to “open him up”. Boy restrains her, and finally they’re let go.

Boy: “What I hate most about creeps I’ve decided is not when they start reading you their poetry – they all do that – it’s when they start calling themselves the ‘security forces’. What are they talking about. Whose poxy security. Their own, that’s all.”

Scene 5

Boy: “I want to get out of the car.”
Computer: “You have assumed TPS – temporary pedestrian status. High risk element. Don’t blame us Boy.”

Boy talks about how he’s become obsessed with watching Luka, the little things she does. Luka walks across to the machine people playing with junk. Luka starts shooting them. They laugh as they do so. She’s getting covered in blood, hers and machine people. A thought strike Boy – she’s as bad as they are.

Boy says they have to talk. He thinks they should stay here, in this lost city. Luka wants to get back to the road, black to blasting people.

Boy: “We won’t be blasting people any more.”

Boy says he’s been watching her.

Luka: “I know. You’ve been keeping some sort of word record on me. I can hear your lips mouthing the words. Spooky.”

Boy says they’re at risk because she’s “falling to bits”. Boy talks about trying to find a lost city. Luka thinks she’s going to leave him.

Luka: “Just because my body’s not so great it doesn’t mean my minds gone you know” [ Toyah lyric? ]

The computer starts asking Boy to get back into the car.

Luka: “We belong to the road Boy. You know it’s true.”

Boy: “I told you. I want to live in a city.”

Luka and the Computer are both arguing against him. Boy thinks the cities are trying to tell him something. That they want them to live in them. That they’re good. Luka wants to drive, Boy says she can’t.

Luka: “I bet I could if you tied my hands to the wheel and my feet to the pedals.”

Boy says he’s going inside.

Luka: “Inside what? There’s nothing to go inside to. It’s the inside of a creep brain.”

In the distance they hear a telephone – an old style mechanical ring. Boy thinks it’s for him. Luka says it’s just drawing attention to itself. “It’s always a sob story”.

Boy blows the dust off and picks it up. There’s an old woman talking on the end. She says she’s his mother. Boy doesn’t really understand how the phone works. The woman says she’s old and very far away. How it’s wonderful that Boy’s still alive. That she’s been trying to get him. Boys says he “can’t see any voice in here”. Mother says she knows it’s a long way but he’s got to drive, to hit them. Boy says he thought he’d take a break. She’s says it’s a mistake. That they’re all there waiting for him. That he must do what he’s told. That they’ll all be together again. Luka takes the phone and says she’ll rip Mother open when she gets there, and slams the phone down.

Boy: “What did it mean. ‘Mother’?”

Luka talks about how the phones always talk like that. Dead people talking.

Boy: “That’s why they’re black, because they’re dead people”
Luka: “They’re just the words that dead people never wanted so they get rid of them through the telephone.”

The telephone starts crying

Boy: “I didn’t know they cry. I thought only road signs cried”.

They argue again about staying.

Luka: “It’s all very well but we’re nothing better than pedestrians”

They finally get back in the car. The Computer welcomes them back – it knows they’ve been talking to Mother. Their “unit score” stands at seven.

Scene 6

The music gets up beat again. They’re in lane five “in no time”. They drive for days without speaking or resting much. Luka’s deteriorating, she can hardly hold her rifle. They come across a gang of crazies in lane 3. They’re under attack again. The crazies recognize her – “that slut with the bandage”.

Boy hits the chicken switch.

Boy: “Another Cadillac”
Luka: “So humiliating”
Computer: “Requested transfer. All score forfeit and passes straight into non-volatile memory.

Scene 7

They come to another roadblock.

Boy: “I want to get this straight as I feel perhaps something is coming to an end. Something to do with Luka, coming to an end.”

The creeps are wearing leather jerkins and metal boots, “all wired up for sound and vision, looking at the drivers through their dark goggles”

The computer tells them they are approaching inter block gap 374b, that they should not make a transfer or turn around. That they should answer all questions clearly. It then tells them they are being detained. They stop and the guards ask them to come over. The computer tells them to leave the vehicle, and to leave their guns and bags behind.

They wait and wait, the traffic moving past. There’s a high tower, with black windows and lots of wire, going up into the clouds. Two females come out of an elevator.

Controller: “Hello Boy, I’ve always wondered what you look like.”

He asks how she know’s his name.

Controller: “Oh, it’s your actual name is it. Nice. Most don’t bother at all.”

She says they’ve all heard of him. She says she talks to him all the time. The cops laugh when he asks if she talks to him in words. She says she’s the Field Controller, and that the other woman is her assistant. Luka is being threatening again.

Cop: “I’m sorry that’s the way they are on this level.”
Controller: “Oh that’s all right. We can do something about that too I think.”

The controller talks about them having to adjust, having to feel their way. Luka and the assistant start exchanging words.

Luka: “I suppose you two think you look really female in those dresses.”

Assistant: “Look these can’t be the ones.”

Controller: “Oh they’re the ones.”

The Controller says her assistant has been having a rough time recently but “you’ve got to get into the elevators occasionally, same as the rest of us”. She asks Boy about what the problem is. That they are here to help. Boy realizes that “he’s not been hitting”.

Controller: “That’s it. See if you don’t hit, you don’t score. And if you don’t score then well, where does that leave us. Well it doesn’t leave us in a very nice situation. It leaves us looking rather silly.”

Assistant: “He’s pretending. No one can be this stupid.”

Boy: “All we want to do is drive”

Controller: “That’s all we want you to do…. But unfortunately the road isn’t just about driving. Is it. I only wish it was. You see we live in the real world, and in the real world we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do… Because we’re all part of one big plan. That’s the way I look at it. Someone’s got to do our hitting for us. You wouldn’t want me to do it would you.”

Luka tells Boy not to listen. The Controller says she thinks they can find her mother and she can tell him what to do. That she’d talked to her that morning and that she wanted him to stay in the field. She asks the cop to handshake with the mother. The “mother” arrives, but it’s an old man. The controller tells the cops to get him out of there.

Controller: “OK so we messed up. We do that sometimes. We’re only human afterall”.

She tells Boy he’s go to build up points. He’s got to hit.

The assistant is getting nervous about Luka. The cops ask what to do about her.

Controller: “She’s too badly burnt to be any use much longer. We’ll put her downstairs in the reserve batch. We’re putting you in a different field from now on Boy. It’ll ?be/mean? a lot to your mother. It should stimulate you. I think that’s all you need. A bit of stimulation. Less rats. Got better animals up there Boy. Got elephants.”

She says he’ll have a better car. That he just needs to get accustomed to the pace and then start scoring. They go to take Luka away. The controller says he won’t need her, that it isn’t fair to her, that she’s holding him back.

Boy: “She’s the only one left of my family”
Assistant: “It’s pathetic. Fancy being attached to a horrible thing like that.”

The cops go to put Luka into C3 “they need a bit of sorting out down there”. The controller says to kit Luka out with a few guns.

Then Luka says “Alright, alright. Just watch”. It all goes quiet.

Luka: “I’m going to do something. It’ll be rather fast. It’ll just be a blur to you, but do try and watch.”

Cop: “Watch her.”

Luka: “I’m going to have a look inside your assistant”.

There’s a whoosh and a squelching side as Luka splits the assistant open.

Boy: “Quick action is just slow action speeded up”.

[ shades of Matrix ]

Her intestines spill out. They put her body in the elevator. The Controller is not bothered, and just tells them to get another one.

Luka tells him to go. That she’ll be alright. Boy asks her to “remember me”. She says she will. Boy goes to “the right car”.

[ I had to turn the tape over here, so there’s a few seconds missed, less than a minute I think]

Scene 8

Boy’s talking about Luka how she could just go on killing till they killed her. Something about a pearl necklace. The speed is relaxing. There’s deserts, cities, sunsets. “The sky is full of black flying shapes, some have people spilling out of them. The scavengers hide when I pass. The roadsigns are changing. They have her face in them.”

Boy stops. His mother’s there. She steps into the car. The computer says he got it right this time. The scavengers are throwing stones at the car.

Boy: “They look at us with such hatred as if we’ve done them some wrong”.

Mother: “You’ve spent too much time on the lower level. Always said it would spoil you if you stayed down there too long. Still I suppose it made you fast. Take after me. I was always very fast myself.”

To show him, Mother takes out a car as if by magic.

Mother: “There are more levels than you ever dreamed of. This is nowhere, this is what you might call the desert. All sorts of other levels. Some people call them worlds – but I’m not that grand. But you’re going to see them Boy. You’re going to go where all the naughty boys go.”

Boy: “Am I naughty?”.

Mother: “Oh you’ve always been naughty. But you’ve never been quite mean enough. And you’ve got to be mean to be really naughty. It’s because you’ve always considered other peoples feelings. Not an unattractive feature, but you don’t get on that way. Take your mum’s advice and don’t care about the others. They can’t all be top. I’m counting on you. I’m the proudest mother in the league.”

Boy tries to remember back to the phone call. He finds it hard. She says she’s making the most of their last precious moments together.

Mother: “You must realize that things will never be the same again. Listen I’m trying to tell you something. I’m your Mother, as I had a mother before me. This is no ordinary handshake. You’re supposed to take my hand Boy.”

He takes her cold hand, her eyes shining like headlights.

Mother: “You don’t know it at the moment but you have experienced a headcrash. If it hadn’t been for me Boy, for me not your father, you’d never have got a chance for a crack at the title. And here you are in line for a home run. What I’m trying to say Boy is how about a kiss for old times sake.”

Computer: “Kiss your mother good night.”

They kiss.

Mother: “Who’s a lucky boy. Guess what, this prolonged instruction resource is designated for your extensive use. The terminals are all clear. Go on and hate. Hate Boy. Take it away my Boy and let all hell rip.”

He looks at her, she smiles and her face crumbles, smoke comes from her nostrils, her body deflates. All that is left iss the laugh, he splats it against the windscreen and throws it out the window.

He opens the door, kicks the body out, the scavengers are on to it.

He hits the road.

Scene 9

Boy: “I love this speed. “

Computer: “Entering 378.”

The deserts are black and white and blue. He hits the drivers as his mother taught him to, just by looking.

Boy: “To kill with the flick of the eyes. All my life has led to this point. This beautiful purity.”

Computer: “Level 380 off field and expanding. Congratulations Boy we have a home run.”

Boy is jubilant, carried away with it.

Computer/Controller?: “Thanks boy, you turned into a real bastard. Good hitting.”

Boy: “Get out and smoke it sucker. Blow everything away”.

And to the listener

Boy: “And just a word of advice to you. You keep out of my way and just make sure I don’t see you. OK.”

Credits and Music

Jeremy Flynn - Boy
Toyah Willcox - Luka
Mary Wimbush – Mother
Francis Geeta - Controller
Suzy Brand - Assistant
Tim Reynolds – other parts
George Parsons – other parts
Jonathan Taffler – other parts
David Chilton – music
Mia Seteriou - music
Richard Beadsmore – tech presentation
David Chilton – tech presentation
Jane Fletcher – tech presentation
Jeremy Mortimer – director

Contact Us

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If you want to contact me, especially if you have any new information about Headcrash then please email h e a d c r a s h @ c o n v e r j . c o m (take out the spaces of course, they're there to keep the spam to a minimum).

If you've heard Headcrash and got any views on it I'm happy to post them to this blog. Again e-mail me.

Alternatively use our contact form.

David

The Recording

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I made my recording of Headcrash on a cassette over 10 years ago. In fact I've just realised that Headcrash was first (and only) broadcast on 24 Jul 93. In other words in 12 days time it'll be its 10th Anniversary. How odd that after talking about doing this fan site for it for at least 3 years I should finally get around to doing it now.

Anyway I've transferred the recording on to MP3, but at around 60MB its too much for me to really put up on my web site. What I'll do is put it on my Kazaa server. So if you want to download the whole programme then just set yourself up on the Kazaa peer to peer service and do a search for Michael Wall or Headcrash and you should find it. My server is on most UK evenings. Any problems contact me. Of course should the BBC ever be sensible enough to make it available commercially I'll withdraw the file - that OK Mr Dyke?

[OK I've never got round to putting it on Kazaa. If anybody would like to get a copy of the recording let me know and I'll work out the best way to get it to you.]

The Independent Review

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I think this review came from the Independent. Apologies if not.

"I'm gonna shoot roller-skaters, you coming?" must be one of the best offhand lines of dialogue ever. It encapsulates the grimly humorous, nihilistic ambience of Michael Wall's futuristic Headcrash (Saturday, Radio 3), a weird piece that's languished in the archives since 1986, finally finding a sympathetic slot in the "experimental" Studio 3 season two years after its authors death.

Strong on mood and stingy with specifics, Wall's post-apocalyptic wasteland is peopled by a mixed bag of creps, crazies, hitters and bozos. Our "hitters" are Boy and Yuka, tooled-up and revved-up as they cruise the freeways, blowing away fellow travellers to gain advancement in a bizarre officially sanctioned game.

Yuka (Toyah Willcox) is smothered in bandages becuase her skin is disintegrating. Boy (Jeremy Flynn) was born in a highway pile-up, could drive before he could walk, and tries to keep a mental record of their life with the archaic words ("mother", "crime") that pop into his head. Some time later we learn that they're related. But that's about all we learn.

Where and why this wasteland exists, who's in charge and how the game works never become clear. Hints at contemporary relevance and a vague suggestion it's all happening in Boy's head are dangled. But Headcrash decelerates to an almost apologetic halt with Boy becoming "a real bastard", freed of encumbrances and able to kill with his eyes alone.

Even so, this was gripping stuff thanks to its evocation of the sensations, if not the sense, of a demented future world. Mia Soteriou and David Chilton provided a revolutionary soundtrack, the dialogue constantly underlaid by a driving electro-hum, a rhythm reminiscent of telegraph poles ticking past at speed. The effects - explosions, rat attacks, the scream of rending steel - were laced in to make a superb totality of sound.

Flynn was a little stilted as the confused Boy. But Wilcox was excellent in what was her radio debut, freaking out at the rodents, gleefully dismembering a posse of ambushing crazies, or eviscerating one of the "Creeps" who enforce the game (an act in direct contravention of the rules I might add). Of course, the theme of Headcrash is not remotely experimental. From Schwarzenegger to Sam Shepard, the idea has had more mileage than Boy could ever hope to travel. It is Wall's refusal to use the scenario as an obvious metaphor, and the technical excellence of Jeremy Mortimer's production that distinguish it. It's probably what kept it off the air for so long, too. - Nick Curtis.

About Headcrash

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Many years ago I saw a play listed on Radio 3 which sounded vaguely interesting. It just so happened that I had something on at the time, so rather than listen to the play I taped it. And boy was I glad I did. That play was Headcrash - one of the best and most original plays ever broadcast by the BBC ( well apart from The Flipside of Dominick Hide - but that was on the telly).

The play was written by Michael Wall in 1986 but not broadcast until 1993 (July I think), two years after Michaels death. To my knowledge it has been only broadcast the once.

So what is it about? Its set in some dystopian future where Boy drives through the landscape shooting pedestrians and skaters and being attacked by rats. Boy in joined by Yuka, played by Toyah Willcox , and is in search of his mother. But is everything what it seems? Is this happening in real life, in cyberspace, or is it all just a computer game.

With a stunning soundtrack and an amazing atmosphere, this is a unique and haunting play.

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