This final audio drama in 45North’s Written on the Waves project, highlights an important topic that is rarely spoken of.

Written by Marika McKennell, this warm and occasionally funny audio play brings vividly to the life a story focusing on two teenage girls who have found themselves involved with county lines drug running. What initially starts out as an adventure for them both, they soon discover that they are in over their heads with danger just lurking around the corner.

Every aspect of this drama is so vivid – it might have a lot of dialogue but every word has a direct purpose and influence on the story unfolding that it grabs and holds the attention of the listener. Combined with Laura Howard’s evocative sound design as the girls travel on a train, end up lost in a wood and the drama towards the end – it really feels as though you are experiencing Janie and Lolita’s story alongside them.  

While both the central characters get themselves into trouble doing this illegal act, what McKennell convincingly brings through is both their vulnerability and naivety of the danger that they are putting themselves in – revealing just how easy it is to be drawn into a situation that Janie and Lolita find themselves in. In this respect it would have been interesting to have been given a little more background as to how they end up being caught up in county lines drug running, with this extra context it could help to make more people aware of the signs.

Despite the heaviness of the subject, there is also some wonderful moments of humour – such as when Janie and Lolita come across an animal giving birth or the way in which they squabble showing the depth of bond between them. It is all handled with great sensitivity but you can still get a sense of the tension and drama building.

Directed with great purpose and distinction by Thomas Bailey, it feels like a really sophisticated piece of audio drama that keeps you compelled to find out what happens to the girls at the end.

The performances from all of the cast are wonderfully distinctive – with Dominic Applewhite and Katy Secombe in particular capturing their multi-characters with great thought and attention. Meanwhile Marika McKennell as Janie and Alice Vilanculo as Lolita have great warmth in their performances to keep the characters likeable while together consistently showing the depth and bond between them both.

Overall, Cunch certainly highlights an important topic that certainly needs further discussion and is worth a listen for anyone seeking out new writing to experience.

By Emma Clarendon

Cunch is available to listen to as part of 45North’s Written on the Waves project. Check out our interview with writer Marika McKennell here.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐