By Declan Brennan published 8 Fed 2014.
This particular radio documentary story profiles a female weight lifter, Clare Connolly, who recently joined a training group called the Dublin Female Strength Club. The producer is a close friend of the weightlifter for over ten years now, and focuses on her new hobby of weightlifting and how she plans to travel to Glasgow to represent Ireland in the World Drug free Powerlifting Championships with the rest of her team. It features on her current lifestyle and how it has changed to incorporate her new profession, from what she eats to how she is seen in society.
Its told through a very conversational interaction between her and the narrator Declan Brennan, the links of which are them constantly switching between Q and A interview format to Declan relaying facts about Clare to the listener. For example, it opens with a very feature-like introduction full of suspense. We hear a knock at a door and a male voice calling out good morning. A woman replies saying come in, and what we automatically assume to be the presenter speaking to this as of yet unidentified woman, saying he has a surprise for her. We then hear her laughing and expressing her joy at seeing a speaking scale. Just as we begin to get the picture, that this is an athlete and it is a fun poked interaction between two friends, the narrator addresses the listener by saying “My friend Clare Connolly is…”
Other link ins include the announcement of where they are or where they are going either by Clare through a proclamation or by Declan through a colourful observation of the place they’re now in. There’s about seven or more of these in total, with Declan painting a brief picture of each scene before they continue the interview. For example when they arrive at the gym, Clare ends whatever she was saying by declaring “were here at the gym now,” and Declan replies “you won’t find any colourful kettle bells in this gym.”
These links from place to place include the gym she trains in, her flat, a bar in Dublin city after she’s had a bad day, her family home in her town of origin. He also begins a countdown halfway through the documentary of her daily weigh-ins either over or under her goals and he documents how many days it is before the competition. Then before the big event, it opens with a discussion between the team of girls, Declan asking questions about some of their weight conscious references we too as listeners would not be aware of. Every time, Declan almost poetically describes the setting. He then continues to narrate the actual competition, building up to it with a discussion with the girls, their breakfast, the opening ceremony music, his explanation of the competitions rules. Then during the actual power lifting, the music picks up and the shouts of the crowds are enhanced. He keeps us updated on her levels of strength through the trials with extra comments from Clare in between.
The entire opening is quick and keeps the listener active with the story, which is exactly the format for the rest of the documentary. The seriousness of the presenter Declan counteracts well with the upbeat tone Clare has, the listener can easily tell Declan is trying to portray Clare and her powerlifting seriously whilst having fun, and Clare is very relaxed and forthcoming with the interview answers. It flows quite well as a feature piece with no awkward pauses.
They hold interviews in places we easily recognise by what I assume the amplified background noises to add dramatic and audio effect to the music. We can hear the clinging of weights above the music as Clare talks about her weight and size, and we hear the fridge door closing when her and Declan discuss her typical diet.
Other sources and characters introduced are some of her teammates, and they’re hugely diverse pastimes. Eimear who is a part-time burlesque dancer and beautician and Lynn with her two kids who accompany her to the gym every Sunday as she is a single mum. The show includes her two kids giggles amplified in the background. After Lynn announces the difficulty of training with two kids, it cuts to her daughter giggling and eventually saying to Declan “Act like a lady, lift like a beast” and the room erupts in laughter. Here we click the humorously cute origin of the documentary’s title, and automatically as a listener you feel a fondness for it. Another is her mother when they travel to her hometown, a typical Irish mammy filled with concern or her daughter, and the typical Irish dad joking about not wanting her to turn into a man.
The documentary paints an honest picture of Clare, and what the world of female powerlifting really looks like. The difficulties they face, their diverse background, the stress of keeping their weight down in the preparation for the competition and so on. The constant diary like responses Clare gives make us feel closer to her, and both her and Declan’s stark examination of her faults hide nothing from the listener. The background music fits in with the mood of the documentary, between calm and pensive to upbeat and intense when the documentary calls for it. We really hope she wins the competition in the build-up, with her family screaming and the emotional music coming in. Finally we find out she’s taken world champion in her age category, and feel like we’ve been there with her throughout the journey and smile as she deserves her reward as the documentary closes.
Listen to the documentary online here: