Gertrude E Jennings- BBC’s pioneering one act playwright

Writing Audio Drama by Tim Crook published by Routledge 31st March 2023

Book Description

Writing Audio Drama offers a comprehensive and intelligent guide to writing sound drama for broadcasting and online. This book uses original research on the history of writing radio plays in the UK and USA to explore how this has informed and developed the art form for more than 100 years.

Audio drama in the context of podcasting is now experiencing a global and exponential expansion. Through analysis of examples of past and present writing, the author explains how to create drama which can explore deeply psychological and intimate themes and achieve emotional, truthful, entertaining and thought-provoking impact. Practical analysis of the key factors required to write successful audio drama is covered in chapters focusing on audio play beginnings and openings, sound story dialogue, sustaining the sound story, plotting for sound drama, and the best ways of ending audio plays. Chapters are supported by online resources which expand visually on subjects discussed and point to exemplar sound dramas referenced in the chapters.

This textbook will be an important resource for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students taking courses such as Podcasting, Radio, Audio Drama, Scriptwriting, and Media Writing.

Gertrude E Jennings- Pioneering one-act playwright who was the BBC’s most produced original dramatist in its first three years of broadcasting.

Gertrude Jennings was one of the most produced original living playwrights on BBC Radio between 1923 and 1925.

Later celebrated by the Radio Times as a ‘brilliant writer’ whose one act play Five Birds In A Cage was described as “possibly the best ever written by the best-known writer of one-act plays of modern times. It sparkles with wit and draws character with a deft hand.”

This play was in fact the BBC’s first full studio production of a modern original stage play and its first broadcast on 29th November 1923 predates Danger by Richard Hughes which has been repeatedly canonised by male historians as the significant turning point in radio drama history.

Gertrude’s script originated the potential of audio drama connecting with the comedy and suspense of characters being trapped and plunged into a claustrophobic situation.  

The one-act farce featured five people trapped in a London Underground lift. 

It was originally produced at the London Haymarket Theatre for a special matinée in 1915 and continued there in the evening bill for a further 285 consecutive performances.

Writing Audio Drama by Professor Tim Crook critically analyses the significance and proper contribution of Jennings to British drama and broadcasting history, and why this play and her other one-act scripts were so popular with producers and listeners.

Her comedy writing touched on social and political tensions of her time and interesting questions arise on why the BBC may have avoided some of her plays because of their potentially controversial content. 

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