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Way back in the late 1990’s I dreamed up the idea for an absurd radio serial based around a loquacious detective / gentleman spy called Bentley Strangetrousers. In my original pilot script the setting was contemporary and Bentley was a lone, outrageously surreal character in a bleak & otherwise conventional world; the only other eccentric was his arch nemesis, the equally deranged Raol Heliotrope. The script did the rounds of radio producers, engendered interest, but was never quite made and so Bentley languished in a drawer for over a decade…

By 2012 my technical skills and production know how had increased exponentially, plus the Internet had truly arrived as a means to deliver a ‘radio’ programme to the masses, without the need for a broadcaster. With this in mind I approached my old theatre colleague, Damien Bell, and we agreed to produce the show together. Back in the early days Damien had created a couple of brilliant cartoon sketches of Bentley and Raol, but more importantly both of us shared a love of the anarchic and the surreal and so we began developing the concept into a series.

Ideas were thrown in, ideas were thrown out as the character and his world began to develop. Bentley’s absurd misuse of language remained, but we agreed to re-set the show in the 1950’s - some distance from the present day seemed to allow more freedom for the absurd, plus it also rooted the show in the era of radio comedy which had so inspired us. As we plotted the first serial and developed the cast of MI5&7/8ths it soon became clear Strangetrousers was now only one lunatic among many in a very crazy world…

Darren Gooding 2015


Damien Bell and Darren Gooding founded I Hear Voices Theatre Co. in 2012 with the intention of recording their plays as podcasts to make the work accessible to a wider audience. As fans of old radio comedies such as “The Goon Show”, it was decided to record the shows live before an audience and to enhance the theatricality of the event further by also creating as many live sound effects as possible, as well as including elements of audience participation; which have proved very popular with the company’s growing following. Recordings began at Colchester Slack Space, (who utilise vacant commercial properties as venues for local arts exhibitions and performances) and transferred to Colchester Arts Centre in 2013. The company has built on its experience with each production to improve its technical skills. To date podcasts include the serial “Bentley Strangetrousers and the Dance of Doom”, “The Frogs”, (a new adaptation by Damien Bell of Aristophanes’ ancient Greek comedy), “Bentley Strangetrousers and the Twelve Plagues of Christmas” Mr. Bell’s Victorian Steam-Punk series “Tea with Lady Breakneck”, “Bentley Strangetrousers and A Quantum of Sporran”. “Bentley Strangetrousers and A Ding Dong Merrily on Die!”, “The Greatermass Experiment” and “Bentley Strangetrousers and The Holly & The Ivan”.