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The Play's the Thing

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Radio Drama

Has anybody else noticed that this is a craft left behind somewhere in the 1970s along with the flared ice-skaters’ bell-bottoms? Has no ice-skater stamped his blades on the ice and demanded a stylist? Probably not, probably because there are ruling bodies and committees with world championship rules as to the suitable length of the flare and tannoy distortion levels on ice.

The nearest I’ve got to ice-skating, is watching the world championships on tv. A 7.5 for a triple axel, a 4 for the Saturday Night Fever costumes and glitter gel.

As an established arm-chair authority on ice-skating, I’m now able to turn my attention to the saddoes that make some of the naffest radio drama in the world. Likewise it’s probably not their fault. They probably have to answer to strict committees who enforce health and safety standard sound-effects for carriages passing over cobbles, and cast the same actress to play Jane Eyre in ten different adaptations
‘Last night, I heard a noise Mister Rochestaire, a terrifying noise, my blood ran cold’
‘Don’t be ridiculous Jane, finish your cereal’.

If most radio drama was transported to tv today it'd be laughed off the screen for its cardboard sets, clunky sound effects and actors with their best RP. Do you think anybody at the BBC, (the home of radio drama) has ever listened to a real conversation with its half-thoughts, interruptions, stoney silences, and incidental sounds? What is this about not being able to write 'for godsake' in the afternoon play? Can it get any quainter?

Sayin’ this, aghem…I’m compulsively tuned in. Curled under the duvet, drifting into a world where Stan Laurel visits his soul-mate Oliver Hardy on his deathbed, where Lata chooses her Suitable Boy, when Spoonfaced Steinberg whispers up secrets.

Okay, I haven’t ever recorded a radio drama, myself, but if I did, it wouldn’t have an atmosphere as flat as a recording in a broom cupboard. And my characters would live because you’d be able to hear them breathe.

So I've bought the domain name:

Fingers crossed....

posted by Sarah Weatherall @ 9:24 pm   


At 10:50 am, Blogger David Bishop said...

Sarah, cheer up! You've got a very gloomy photo on the blog. Of course, I look like a seerial killer in most photos, so that's probably envy talking. Anyway, you write:

"If most radio drama was transported to tv today it'd be laughed off the screen for its cardboard sets, clunky sound effects and actors with their best RP."

Hmm, hint of sweeping generalisation there? I've had my first radio drama broadcast last week [on the BBC, natch] and can't say I noticed a lot of RP in it. You can still hear my 15-minute play, Island Blue: Ronald, via the Beeb's Listen Again service. Paste this URL into your browser...

At 11:24 pm, Blogger radiorob said...

Can't believe I'm getting involved in writing about Radio Drama, considering I gave up acting 2 years ago to spend more time with my family.

But the point I have to make is Sarah, that you are generalising along the lines of the generally regarded stereotype of 'BBC Radio Drama'. Over a period of 8 years (1 of which was spent solely performing in Radio Plays as part of the Radio Drama Company) I acted in over 300 radio plays, which, I guess, gives me a slightly more rounded view of the medium.

Oh God (sorry you can't say that before 7pm - yes that was true) there were awful plays, there pointless plays, plays full of well known actors who hadn't got a clue how to act in front of microphone, badly written plays, and tedious plays. But there were also many more plays that had heart, had passion, had innovation and dozens in which I performed that that were at the forefront of theatricality on the radio.

So I think, you need to get over to Broadcasting house and ask for 30 or 40 dramas over a long period of time be different producers so that you get a greater depth of feeling regarding this beautiful medium.

At 11:42 pm, Blogger Sarah Weatherall said...

Thanks Dave, you're right, hence the addiction!
Hope you'll write something for when we are up and running,

At 11:44 pm, Blogger Sarah Weatherall said...

Thanks Radio Rob,
Did you read the nice things I said 'bout radio drama too? Spoonfaced Steinberg, A Suitable Boy etc..
Not knocking a fantastic medium, just want a more imaginative use of it,
'till then,

At 12:12 pm, Blogger MsMinxy said...

I wonder if this competition will get something truly creative made, or end up back at ‘safe’, as I think happened in the Theatre show. I guess we’ll know soon.


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Sarah Weatherall

Sarah Weatherall directed The Colonel, one of the winning dramas in Channel 4’s The Radio Play’s The Thing