BBC Radio Drama History

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 exemplary 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.

The content of all the companion web-pages for this project is in the process of development, and completion is expected 31st July 2023 following the publication of the printed book 31st March 2023. Many thanks for your patience and consideration.

Seminal developments in the history of BBC radio/audio drama

Any selection by a historian is Inevitably subjective and apologies for those plays, artists and events omitted though considered more important by others.

Radio/audio drama has been continually originated in all parts of the BBC- Children’s programming, Features and Drama Departments, Light Entertainment and Variety departments, local radio and nation state (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and overseas services.

BBC Radio Drama Timeline

A selection of highlights to mark more than 100 years of BBC Radio Drama by Professor Tim Crook, Goldsmiths University of London

Dramatic Beats Archive on 4, BBC R4 Best known for his prize winning poetry, Michael Symmons Roberts has also written numerous radio dramas over the years, and is a passionate advocate for one of the great cornerstones of British radio for the past one hundred years. Guests include Caroline Raphael, Susan Roberts, Professor Tim Crook and Ayeesha Menon.

The Strange Survival of Radio Drama by David Hendy, Emeritus Professor University of Sussex author of The BBC: A People’s History.


First original radio drama Christmas Eve December 24 1922. Written specially for the BBC by Phyllis M. Twigg under the pen-name Moira Meighn. The True Story of Father Christmas as told by The Fairy Dustman was performed live for half an hour with Arthur playing Father Christmas and flying a plane with thousands of presents and lighting up the imagination of children to meet  ‘with Santa Claus always in the Hall of Hearts.’


First season of full length radio adaptations and productions of William Shakespeare. May to June 1923. Devised and directed by Cathleen Nesbitt. It could be argued that Cathleen was the BBC’s first radio drama producer/director. She was responsible for adapting the original Shakespeare plays starting with Twelfth Night for radio, casting and directing the productions live at the BBC’s early Savoy Hill studio. This was followed by The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This would be the start of a century of several hundred BBC radio productions of William Shakespeare plays frequently with the casting of major acting stars of their time.  

First studio drama of a modern stage play November 23 1923. Five Birds in a Cage by suffragette playwright Gertrude Jennings. Five people from different class backgrounds confront and face danger and death when their London underground lift breaks down and they are plunged into darkness. Jennings was one of Britain’s most successful woman playwrights of  the 20th Century specialising in stage comedies as one act plays and full-length West End productions.


First original radio drama written for adult audience January 1924. Comedy of Danger by Richard Hughes. Three people visiting a coal mine in Wales are trapped after an explosion and in the pitch black darkness face death from drowning.  The play is regarded as a landmark in writing for sound, celebrated as the first surviving drama script specially written for radio. It was the first radio play produced in Japan, and reproduced for the first US CBS Columbia Workshop episode 17th July 1936.

First Director of Drama Productions at the BBC appointed in July 1924 was R E Jeffrey who pioneered an exponential expansion of output from the dramatization of major contemporary novels such as by Joseph Conrad and Compton Mackenzie, discovered the creator of Britain’s first radio sitcom Mabel Constanduros, originated interactive radio play competitions inviting listeners to write the end of thrillers and mysteries, oversaw the first appearance of George Bernard Shaw and production of his plays, and discovered and encouraged new writers and auteurs experimenting with the radio medium such as Reginald Berkeley, Cecil Lewis, Tyrone Guthrie, and L du Garde Peach, and Jeffrey would commission and write the BBC’s first radio drama science fiction.

First appearance and performance by ‘the eminent playwright’ George Bernard Shaw reading his play ‘O’Flaherty, VC’ between 8.30 and 9.20 p.m. Thursday November 20th 1924.

Kathleen Baker writing as John Overton- one of the most creative and prolific radio playwrights writing for children at the BBC between 1924 and 1933. Most of her work, some 250 scripts, were produced for the BBC Birmingham station 51T. She was a successful romantic and adventure novelist and one of her books, My Lady April was made into the film A Gipsy Cavalier in 1922.


First original full length radio play commissioned for radio and published in book form. Armistice night November 11 1925.  The White Chateau by Reginald Berkeley. First anti-war play about the Great War broadcast by the BBC, later developed and adapted for successful West End stage run and produced for television in 1938.

First broadcast sitcom. 1925 Mrs Buggins and Family by Mabel Constanduros. First sketch broadcast 9.47 p.m. 29th August 1925 ‘Mrs Buggins chooses a Hat’. Mabel played all the voices initially, later joined by Michael Hogan and developed into a series running periodically until 1955. Mrs Buggins episodes were scheduled intermittently but broadcast frequently over a thirty year period with accompanying releases of 78 rpm recordings and books. In one sketch when Grandma Buggins lost her false teeth, BBC Savoy Hill was overwhelmed with dentures being sent by fans in the post.


First book on the art and craft of writing radio drama in the world. 1926. Radio Drama and How to Write it by Gordon Lea, preface written by R E Jeffrey first BBC director of drama productions and recommended to all BBC stations and production centre by the managing director John Reith. Gordon Lea was a drama producer working at the BBC’s Newcastle Upon Tyne station 5NO where from 1924 to 1926 there was an active ‘5NO Repertory Company.’ He talked about radio plays regulating and playing with human consciousness, orchestrating the human voices of the players coming out of a canvas of silence and they were like jewels against a background of black velvet. He talked about radio drama providing a mental pageantry of colour and delight which no artist in the world can emulate. Soul speaks to soul. If writers wish to set their plays in the heart of a buttercup, the imagination of the listener will provide the setting.

First broadcast of a fully produced George Bernard Shaw play ‘Passion, Poison and Petrefaction or The Fatal Gazogene- a tragedy’ directed by Donald Calthrop between 9.25 and 10 p.m. Wednesday 13th January 1926. St Joan would be produced by Cecil Lewis in two parts in April 1929, but Shaw was unhappy about Howard Rose’s two hour production of Captain Brassbound’s Conversion in October of that year.

Daily Mail  accuses BBC 2LO London of being ‘stupid’ for broadcasting Reginald Berkeley’s play The Quest of Elizabeth 5th February 1926 because listeners thought it ‘horrible’ and ‘revolting.’ But the Lord Chamberlain gave it a licence for stage presentation and the paper’s theatre critic thought there was ‘nothing unpleasant or objectionable in the little play. On the contrary, it is rather nice in its pathetic way, and it was well applauded by last night’s audience.’ The Radio Times listing said: ‘The Scene is a Hospital in London and the time is the present day. While under an anaesthetic, Elizabeth, who, as it transpires, has met with an accident, dreams her dream and goes on her quest.’ Berkeley wrote to the paper explaining it ‘concerns a little orphan girl whose quest in search of her parents is rewarded by her finding them in another world. The “idea” of the play is the Christian belief in which we have all been brought up, and which I happen to hold strong that there is a future life and those who are separated in this world by death are reunited in the next.’ But Berkeley was appalled that the BBC had, without his permission, cut the final scene of the little girl dying on the operating table.


BBC Radio Drama’s first public censorship row. The BBC refused to produce the play Machines: A Symphony of Modern Life commissioned from Reginald Berkeley one of the most well-known and successful contemporary dramatists and a former MP for Nottingham and Liberal Party politician. The play contained a plot with fictional politicians from the main political parties and criticised the impact of capitalism. The BBC was bound by an obligation to avoid political controversy in its programmes and was negotiating its transition from private company monopoly to public corporation with continued licence fee funding, and a public service broadcasting ethos. Berkeley would publish the play in book form, his angry correspondence with the BBC, and have the play produced in theatre clubs as it was refused a public performance licence by the Lord Chamberlain.   


First Radio Drama Science Fiction. 1928. Three plays commissioned by R.E. Jeffrey who wrote at least one and possibly two of the scripts broadcast. We can be certain Jeffrey wrote Speed under the name Charles Croker; broadcast April 2, 1928. He commissioned The Greater Power written by Francis J. Mott, broadcast September 18, 1928, and it is likely Jeffrey was responsible for X, using the pseudonym George Crayton, broadcast October 29, 1928.  

Avant-Garde and pioneering modernist radio drama 4th September 1928 Kaleidoscope by Lance Sieveking- ‘A Rhythm, representing the Life of a Man from Cradle to Grave.’ Sieveking was an experimentalist and enthusiast for exploring surrealism in the sound medium. He would write an influential book The Stuff of Radio, published in 1934 and is credited with writing the UK’s first television play “The Man with the Flower in His Mouth”, which was transmitted as an experiment 14th July 1930.

The Twelve Great Plays Series- Ambitious season of twelve full-length play productions celebrating world drama and literature combined with the publication of BBC booklets between 1928 and 1929.  Each of the productions was at least two hours in duration and the series was framed by new adaptations and live radio performances of William Shakespeare’s King Lear (11th and 12th September 1928) at the beginning and King Henry VIII at the end (13th and 14th August 1929). They ran monthly and included The Betrothel or The Blue Bird Chooses by Maurice Maeterlinck, The Pretenders by Henrik Ibsen, Life’s A Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, The Fantasticks by Edmond Rostand, Shakuntala or The Lost Ring from the Sanskrit of Kalidasa, Francesa Da Rimini by Gabriele D’Annunzio, The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov, There Are Crimes and Crimes by August Strindberg, Minna von Barnhelm by Gotthold Lessing,and Elektra by Sophocles. When the series started the cover of the Radio Times for 7th September 1928 ran an article by Sunday Times and BBC theatre critic James Agate enthusiastically answering the question ‘What can broadcasting do for the drama?’ The series was significantly appreciated in secondary and further education with London County Council schools and adult education centres enthusiastically ordering the booklet guides for each production.


First Radio Times “Radio Drama Number’- cover illustration by Eric Fraser March 1st 1929. The first edition to celebrate radio drama as an art-form and all its successes. The illustration symbolised the excitement and creativity of multi-studio production with different sources of sound such as performance, music, sound effects, and narration mixed by the ‘dramatic control panel’ an early version of the sound mixer. Articles by Compton Mackenzie and others celebrated past achievements and radio drama’s future with the new Director of Productions Val Gielgud declaring a mission to ‘Leave the Stage Alone!’ and regarding radio drama as ‘a special technique of playwriting.’ Gielgud’s friend Eric Maschwitz writing as Holt Marvel wrote an article titled: ‘Look to the Novelist.’

This was the year that saw the appointment of Val Gielgud as the Second Director of Drama Productions. His influence and development of BBC radio drama between 1929 and April 1963 is greatly respected and regarded as immense. He wrote several books on radio playwriting technique, was a playwright himself, and successful popular crime novelist. He guided BBC Radio Drama during the Second World War to become the largest and most important provider of dramatic entertainment throughout the conflict. Val Gielgud showed courage and leadership in his first year by writing a six part series in the Radio Times between 24th May and 28th June 1929 on how best to write ‘The Microphone Play’  ‘For the Aspiring Dramatist.’

Journey’s End by R C Sherriff, the seminal anti-war realism in the trenches theatre play produced by BBC radio to great success– Initially resisted by john C Reith, but Gielgud successfully argued for it. It was broadcast on Armistice Night 11th November 1929. Censorship through as a result of reluctance to be accused of bias in party politics, sensitivity to political controversy, and ‘taste and decency’ developing into ‘harm and offence’ judgment would sometimes impact on production selections throughout the BBC’s history.


Radio drama director and playwright Tyrone Guthrie published a book of his microphone plays Squirrel’s Cage, Matrimonial News and The Flowers are not for You to Pick.

Squirrel’s Cage broadcast in 1929 and The Flowers are not for You to Pick in 1930 areregarded as significant developments of symphonic and continuous stream of consciousness plays using the sound medium to  find its own way of commenting on modern society and the human condition. Production and broadcast of Matrimonial News would be delayed until 4th June 1938. The Radio Times introduced the play with the words: ‘What is heard is supposed to be happening in the mind of Miss Florence Kippings , who is sitting alone in a cheap restaurant in the Strand in London. The time is about a quarter to twelve, midday. She has ordered a cup of coffee … Remember-her thoughts only are heard, she is alone …’ The 40 minute play was scheduled in ‘The Experimental Hour’ and accompanied with an Art-Deco style illustration depicting multiple internal conflicts in the mind of the headspace of the central character.

L du Garde Peach had published his Radio Plays: The Path of Glory, The Mary Celeste, Love One Another, La Bastille, and Ingredient X.  All demonstrated how the BBC had successfully fostered long form original plays with multiple scenes in the filmic tradition. The Path of Glory was described as ‘An Extravaganza in Numerous Scenes’ and first broadcast 16th January 1931. The Mary Celeste was first broadcast 7th May 1931 on the Regional Programme Midland, Love One Another was described as ‘ A Fantasy specially written for the microphone’ first broadcast 5th January 1932, La Bastille never apparently broadcast by the BBC and Ingredient X was first broadcast 1st August 1929 and described as marking ‘a new departure both in the technique of writing wireless plays and in the method of production. The device known as ‘the fade’ is used to indicate how the action of the play swings to and fro, without break or pause, between’ multiple scenes across the world.


Director of BBC Radio Drama Productions Val Gielgud publishes three of his own plays and a guide to writing for the sound medium in the book How To Write Broadcast Plays. These included Exiles about the Russian Revolution directed by Lance Sieveking 27th and 28th February 1930, Red Tabs set in the British Army during World War One was directed by himself 1st and 2nd October 1930 and Friday Morning, again directed by himself 4th and 6th February 1932. The book reveals Gielgud’s fiercely self-critical and self-deprecatory nature. For example, he excoriates the failures and inadequacies of Red Tabs in the published analysis. He would later agree with a critic that the book should have been called ‘How not to write broadcast plays.’ However, it can be argued he was being rather too hard on himself. In his evaluation of Red Tabs he observed: ‘It is perhaps worth while to notice in this script the occasional deliberate use of short silences. To speak paradoxically, silence can be one of the most telling of sound effects, and it is one that is far too frequently neglected altogether.’ There has always been more to Val Gielgud than his detractors, including his very good self have realised.


Val Gielgud and Holt Marvell (real name Eric Maschwitz) co-wrote the novel Death in Broadcasting House. It was a murder crime mystery taking place in the new Broadcasting House headquarters of the BBC in Portland Place. A radio actor is strangled live on air while performing in a play. The dust wrapper for the book has a gruesome colour illustration of the face of the actor dying with eyes popping and the killer’s hands around his neck. In the same year the novel would be made into a British mystery film directed by Reginald Denham and starring Ian Hunter, Austin Trevor, Henry Kendall, and Jack Hawkins with cameo appearances by Gillie Potter andElisabeth Welch.  Val Gielgud himself performs the role of the impatient and peremptory radio drama director. The mystery is solved when the Scotland Yard detective uses a recording of the radio play which contains a sound clue about who was responsible for the murder. It features the huge steel wire sound recorder known as the ‘Blattnerphone’ which had actually been installed at Broadcasting House in March 1932. This was first film and novel to fictionalise BBC radio drama culture and production with the real Director of BBC Drama Productions co-writing the novel and play a leading role in the film. The novel enhanced the realism with three floor plans of the sixth, seventh and eight floors of Broadcasting house setting out the production architecture of live radio drama performance directed from a control room across multiple studios.


The earliest surviving BBC sound archive of a full radio play is dramatization of The Purple Pileus by H.G. Wells, adapted and directed by Laurence Gilliam for broadcast 6th August 1935. The first dramatic production of an H.G. Wells story by BBC Radio Drama was The Country of the Blind 9th January 1933 directed by E.J King Bull.


The March of ’45 by D.G. Bridson. 28th February, 10th and 12th November 1936. Verse drama of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion and march to England, retreat and defeat at the Battle of Culloden. One and a half hour epic produced live and broadcast from BBC studios in Manchester and Glasgow.

Mary Hope Allen’s ‘Louisa Wants a Bicycle or The Fight for Woman’s Freedom A Rapid Retrospect.’ Tuesday 8th September 1936- an innovative 45 minute drama montaging the characters ‘Mary Wollstonecraft , Florence Nightingale, Anna Jameson , Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell , Elizabeth Garrett , John Stuart Mill , Millicent Fawcett , Evelyn Sharp , Topsy, Mothers, Fathers, Students, Members of Parliament, Suffragettes, Soldiers, Canteen Workers, W.A.A.C.’s, etc., etc.’ Mary Hope Allen along with Barbara Burnham were two full-time women radio drama directors working at the BBC during the inter-war years.

T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral verse play 5th January 1936 directed and produced by Barbara Burnham. Burnham specialised in adapting and directing classical plays and texts by William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Phillip Marlow, Anton Checkhov, and Euripedes, directed the première on radio of Aimee Stuart’s Aunt Jeannie in 1938, and was responsible for introducing and dramatizing James Hilton’s novels by the BBC Goodbye Mr Chips, The Lost Horizon, And Now Goodbye and We are Not Alone.

The radio playwright Philip Wade has published a collection BBC broadcasts Wedding Group and other Plays. Wedding Group broadcast 28th and 29th May 1935 would be made into a film by Fox British Pictures in 1936. Other plays in the volume were The Game directed also by Howard Rose 22nd and 23rd August 1933, and a new production by Barbara Burnham 16th and 17th April 1936,  and Jenny Meade produced by Howard Rose 9th and 10th January 1936. Howard Rose would describe the plays in the Foreword as ‘Lively stories and clearcut characters …built up to thrilling climaxes, and in the second, they take some vital aspect of life and show us the humours and the trials, the fun and the folly that surround us daily, giving zest to the experience of us all.’


The Classic Soil by Olive Shapley and Joan Littlewood– a powerful example of political theatre workshop style drama mixing narration, documentary interviews and dramatic realism to challenge the impact of poor housing and the social costs to health and family life.  Shapley would later concede it was the most politically biased programme ever broadcast by the BBC. It can be seen as radio drama heralding the future impact of the 1966 television play on homelessness and poor housing Cathy Come Home written Jeremy Sandford and directed by Ken Loach.

Two radio plays by Patrick Hamilton,  Money with Menaces, first broadcast 4th & 5th January 1937, and To the Public Danger, first broadcast 25th February 1939 are published by Constable in 1939 with an enthusiastic foreword by Val Gielgud. These were regarded as entertaining and popular plays by the author of the 1929 stage play Rope, said to be inspired by the real-life murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

The BBC described Rope at the time as ‘one of the finest thrillers ever seen on the stage or heard on the air.’ It was adapted by Hamilton for BBC broadcast on 20th January 1932 and he described it as an ‘essay in the macabre … I have gone all out to write a horror play and make your flesh creep … if “Rope” is accused of delving in morbid psychologies and so forth, of being anything but a sheer thriller, of being anything but a De Quinceyish essay in the macabre, I am at a wretched loss.’ It would be made into a BBC television play in 1939 and successful Alfred Hitchcock film in Hollywood in 1948.

The Radio Times said of To The Public Danger ‘Radio is the only medium that could do this new play full justice. Most of the action takes place in a car that is being driven at breakneck speed by a typical ‘car cad’, the sort that everybody has known and hated, a man who drives while intoxicated and cares not a hoot for anybody or anything else on the road. The characters are all only too true to life, the situation is tense, terrifying…’

D.G. Bridson’s haunting verse play Aaron’s Field would be first broadcast 16th November 1939 and was billed as ‘A morality play for the eve of war’ because the action took place on September 1st 1939 somewhere in Northern England. Its status as dramatic and poetic literature would be advanced with book publication by Pendock Press in 1943. By the time of publication it had been produced and broadcast four different times. Bridson acknowledged that many critics had regarded it as infused with the ‘philosophy of despair’ about the outbreak of world war, but he added: ‘Needless to say, Aaron himself failed to survive. Being a retiring sort of fellow, rather nervous and gifted with some imagination, the alarms of war- even the first false alarm- proved to much for him: he died without waiting to be killed.’


First dramatic representation of the rise of Adolf Hitler, Nazism and the persecution of the Jews. 1939-40. Shadow of the Swastika – a nine part series by Igor Vinogradoff and A.L. Lloyd and also published in book form, directed by Laurence Gilliam. Broadcast between 10th November 1939 and 29th February 1940.  I am a Jew by Georg Anders and directed by Howard Rose was a visceral one hour dramatization of the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany and how it tragically impacted on a professional and educated German family.  It was broadcast 28th March 1940 with the Radio Times saying: ‘Concentration camps and suicides may not make bright listening, but it is unlikely that many listeners will remain unmoved by this tragic, dramatic statement.’


First regular family soap opera style series. Front Line Family for the North American Service became so popular with service people and families overseas it evolved during WW2 into The Robinson Family  on the BBC’s Light Programme channel from 30th July 1945 ‘first episode in the day-to-day history of an ordinary family’ which would be later renamed The Robinsons from March 1947.  Front Line family originated from The English Family Robinson, written and developed by Mabel Constanduros and her nephew Denis and produced by Howard Rose over five half hour episodes which ran between October and November 1938. During 1940 the BBC’s Drama Department revived it and it was broadcast from April to August of that year.   The concept was then re-modelled into a US Style 15 minute regularly scheduled daily serial written by Alan Melville for the BBC’s North American service in 1941 featuring a more developed Robinson family surviving all the trials and tribulations of the war in Britain.

Mr and Mrs Sparkes a gentle comedy series in war-time suburbia by Mabel Constanduros and Howard Agg broadcast by the BBC in six weekly twenty minute episodes between June 16th and August 8th 1941 with Mabel herself playing ‘Mummie’ Sparkes and Richard Goolden in the role of Nelson Sparkes.  The playlets were directed by Mary Hope Allen and would be published in a single volume by Samuel French for amateur dramatic groups. The final episode ‘Spies in the Cellar.’ The Radio Times explained ‘Mr and Mrs Sparkes have got horrible suspicions of their maid Alice. You will hear how spy fever got in their blood.’ Its success inspired and informed the development of Front Line Family.


Man Born To Be King for Children’s Hour written by Dorothy L Sayers and directed/produced by Val Gielgud.  The scripts were published in book form in 1943. The series was controversial because of its popular dramatization of sacred characters and subjects in the Christian religion which was directed towards children. Its wider appeal to adults would be later recognised It was a twelve play cycle on the life of Jesus and the BBC, Val Gielgud and Dorothy L Sayers sustained the criticism aimed at them from religious orthodox voices and opinion. Each play depicted a specific period from the life of Jesus. The series ran from 21st December 1941, with new episodes broadcast at 4-weekly intervals to 18th October 1942.

A series of seven mainly verse plays by Clemence Dane called The Saviours with music by Richard Addinsell broadcast by the BBC between 24th November 1940 and 11th November 1942 and published in book form by Heinemann. The plays, all directed by Val Gielgud, dramatized patriotic themes and events in British history: Merlin, The Hope of Britain, England’s Darling, The May King, Light of Britain, Remember Nelson, The Unknown Soldier, and Dane wrote: ‘These seven plays are based on the legend which the British share with many other nations- the legend of the a hero who helps his people to become strong and civilized, and then disappears.

Christopher Columbus an epic verse play by Louis MacNeice was first broadcast 12th October 1942 with the film star Laurence Olivier play the role of the explorer. The length of 2 hours and 20 minutes required transmission in two parts either side of the 9 O’clock evening news and engaged fully with music by William Walton performed by BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Chorus, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. Its significance as radio drama literature would be endorsed by book publication in 1944 by Faber and Faber with an introduction by Louis MacNeice exploring the intrinsic characteristics of writing drama for the radio medium.


Saturday Night Theatre on the BBC Home Service from 3rd April 1943 which quickly became established as most listened to drama programme in BBC history with audiences between ten nd twenty million much more than would by achieved by BBC Television in later years. Content would include the Dorothy L Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey story ‘The Man With No Face’, ‘The Man Who Changed His Name ‘ by Edgar Wallace, and a Somerset Maugham Ashenden spy story ‘The Hairless Mexican.’  Gielgud said he planned the scheduling to cater for popular interest with one hour productions following the 9 o’clock news and War Report.

Barbara Burnham’s adaptation and direction of ‘Children in Uniform’ by the gay German-Hungarian playwright and novelist Christa Winsloe 9th October 1943. This was broadcast on Saturday Night Theatre and represented a serious and progressive subject for its time. The original play Gestern und heute and filmed in 1931 as Mädchen in Uniform has been described as the first play to explore lesbian love in conflict with Prussian drill and blind obedience in Weimar Republic Germany. Only eight months after the BBC Home Service radio broadcast Winsloe, along with her lover and companion Simone Gentet, would be falsely accused of spying and shot dead in a Forest near Cluny in occupied France 10th June 1944.

The Rescue: A Melodrama for Broadcasting based on Homer’s Odyssey by Edward Sackville-West with an orchestral score by Benjamin Britten broadcast by BBC Radio 25th and 26th November 1943 was celebrated as a major artistic event in radio drama. This blended an advance in verse drama written especially for the sound mediumwith modernist music.This would be added to with original line and colour art by Henry Moore in the book publication of the play script by Secker and Warburg in 1944. The production by John Burrell spanned three hours in two one and a half hour episodes broadcast consecutively over two days.

The war-time drama The Great Ship and Rabelais Replies, ‘Another Elysian dialogue’ are two plays written by Eric Linklater and broadcast by the BBC in 1943 would be published in book form by MacMillian in 1944. In the The Great Ship the action takes place in the Western Desert and is first broadcast 9th May 1943 only months after the defeat of Rommel’s Africa Corps and Italian ally in the second Battle of El Alamain. Produced by Val Gielgud who would direct his brother John in the part of Lieutenant Grenfell. Rabelais Replies is first broadcast 24th September 1943 and is also directed by Val Gielgud.


First broadcast of the ballad opera by the African-American Harlem Renaissance poet and playwright, Langston Hughes. The Man Who Went To War was arranged and directed by D. G. Bridson and broadcast on the BBC Home Service Monday 6th March after the 9 o’clock news to an audience of 11 million listeners including performances by Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters and Canada Lee. This was the first play by a Black writer and all-Black cast produced for the BBC. Reception in Britain was at a time when up to two million US service people had been passing through the country preparing for the invasion of North West Europe and serving with the US Army Airforce. Racial segregation in US forces was a source of great tension. At this time the BBC’s only Black producer Una Marson and the only Black war correspondent accredited to US forces in London, Rudolph Dunbar, campaigned against discrimination and the operation of the colour bar. In 1945 Langston Hughes was commissioned in the USA to write the radio play Booker T. Washington In Atlanta but it would not be produced by US radio networks because they did not think their affiliate stations in southern states would be prepared to broadcast a play written by an African-American celebrating the political achievements of a fellow African-American.  


Dick Barton- Special Agent. Light Programme 7th October 1946 t 6.45 p.m. Episode 1 of the new fifteen minute thriller adventure serial, with Noel Johnson as Dick Barton. Script by Edward J. Mason. Produced by Neil Tuson. This immensely popular serial is considered a landmark in radio popular culture.  711 episodes were produced with a peak audience of 20 million. When it came to an end even the Times newspaper evaluated its significance and regretted its demise in 1951 when it would be replaced by the Archers.

The Dark Tower by Louis MacNeice 21st January 1946. Regarded as one of the most significant and qualitative verse plays in radio drama history. A parable play on the ancient theme of the Quest, suggested by Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. It has powerful intrinsic poetics as literature and at the same time uses the radio drama medium to engage human consciousness.  Music was specially composed by Benjamin Britten, and played by an ad hoc orchestra conducted by Walter Goehr. The Dark Tower would also be published in book form.

Theseus and the Minotaur and other Poems by Patric Dickinson would be published in 1946 by Cape and included the verse play broadcast by the BBC 30th July 1945, directed by Barbara Burnham with music composed and directed by Leighton Lucas was then a serving sergeant in the Royal Airforce.

Hemlock for Eight a new play for broadcasting by Clifford Bax and Leon M. Lion, produced by Val Gielgud, for broadcast 30th May 1943 would be published in London as a book in 1946 by Frederick Muller. Both authors would express their enthusiasm and delight about writing radio drama in their prefaces which Val Gielgud would described as ‘lively and stimulating.’ It would have a second production on 28th April 1945.

Val Gielgud revisited advice on authoring radio plays with Radio theatre: Plays specially written for Broadcasting with a foreword to Authors published in 1946 and drawing on successful lessons of making radio drama during World War II. Gielgud said most were ‘reasonably successful, according to the accepted statistics of Listener Research.’ They included Mr Pratt’s Waterloo co-written by Gielgud and Philip Wade and broadcast 19th December 1937, Music At Dusk by Gielgud again and broadcast 17th May 1939, Smash and Grab by Norman Edwards broadcast 5th September 1943, One Fine Day by Emery Bonett, broadcast 30th April 1945, Music for Miss Rogers by Margaret Gore-Brown, broadcast 9th December 1944, Displaced Persons by Ursula Bloom, broadcast 2nd January 1946, and The Tunnel by Mabel Constanduros and Howard Agg, broadcast 1st July 1946 starring Cathleen Nesbitt.


The first radio dramatization of George Orwell’s Animal Farm broadcast on the Third Programme 15th January 1947 with Orwell adapting his own novel for the sound medium. It was directed/produced by Rayner Heppenstall Music with composed and directed by Antony Hopkins. This biting satirical allegory on the blowback and suffering created by the Russian Revolution was described by the Radio Times as a fairy story. The broadcast marks the BBC’s role in the success of the book’s clarity and precision of style and form. It can be argued these skills were honed by Orwell’s two years of working as a producer of cultural programmes at the BBC between 1941 and 1943. This is a key reason that New Broadcasting House has only one statue at its entrance. As the BBC historian Professor Jean Seaton said: The BBC experience, far from being what he referred to as ‘two wasted years’ gave him the ‘ferocious discipline of broadcasting to audiences who were taking risks to listen and who were hearing, not like a reader in their own head, but in the mysterious collective space of the ether. He learnt how to edit and cut.

The world’s longest running stage play, Agathe Christie’s The Mousetrap, still being performed to sell-out audiences at London’s St Martin’s Theatre owes its origin to its first incarnation as a BBC Radio play written by Agatha as a birthday present for Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. It was broadcast on 30th May 1947 under the title Three Blind Mice. The West End theatre run now stands at over 29,000 stage performances.


Val Gielgud wrote another detailed guide to writing radio plays with The Right Way to Radio Playwriting the cover of which said: ‘The ambitious writer cannot do better than study the technique of radio drama as explained by such an eminent authority.’ This would include the script of Ending It an adaptation of a short story by Val Gielgud by Hugh Stewart and directed by Gielgud for radio broadcast 23rd August 1946 along with the script of the television version which live broadcast from Alexandra Palace 25th August 1939- one of the last television plays made before the outbreak of the Second World War. This was one of the first attempts to make a comparative study of the difference in writing technique for broadcast radio and television plays and by a writer who would make no secret of the fact he much preferred radio to television.


Publication by radio actor, writer, composer and producer Felix Felton of The Radio Play: Its Technique and Possibilities by Sylvan Press in 1949 was the culmination of 14 years of radio drama production experience between 1934 and 1948. Felton demonstrated the influence of musical rhythm in play construction and said: ‘It is a strangely rich and satisfying world that radio-drama opens to the listener.’


The production of the half hour play Thieves Rush In  Wednesday 29th March 1950 by Giles Cooper would be the beginning of a distinguished and original playwriting career for BBC Radio. Cooper would specialize in the characterisation of seemingly ordinary and insignificant characters responding dramatically to extraordinary and absurd crises and events. Giles Cooper would give his name to special Radio Drama writing awards run by the BBC from 1978 to 1991 with Methuen publishing the winning plays in annual volumes. His most memorable radio plays were The Disagreeable Oyster (1957), Under the Loofah Tree (1958) and Without The Grail (also 1958). He would be the BBC’s main dramatizer of George Simenon’s Maigret novels for the early 1960s television series starring Rupert Davies. On 9th December 1957 dramatized the first Maigret novel for BBC Radio which was Maigret et la Jeune Morte.

Political storm over the production of the television version of Val Gielgud’s play Party Manners and the censorship of its repeat because of its allegedly pejorative representation of the Labour Party then in government. It was originally a stage play which would later run at the Princes Theatre in London’s West End for 48 performances between 31st October and 9th December 1950. Its first BBC production was a radio adaptation and production by Martyn C. Webster 12th June 1950, 21:15 on the Home Service.  The Radio Times described it as ‘a comedy of political and social upsets first produced at London’s Embassy Theatre in February.’ This was accompanied by an illustration of characters campaigning in an election and one of the placards clearly says ‘Labour.’ There had been no noticeable adverse reaction.  One critic described the stage play as ‘domestic comedy touched-up with witticism some good, some feeble, about the Labour Party government.’

However, after the television version aired 1st October 1950, the Daily Herald alleged it was a malicious attack on the Labour Party, ‘reeking with snobbishness’ the newspaper declared ‘We do not want any more of this Mr Gielgud.’ In the row that followed the decision by the Chair of BBC Governors to ban the repeat schedule and advertised in the Radio Times for Thursday 5th October amplified the storm into one of censorship, the future of the licence fee and BBC independence. Gielgud devotes seven pages of his book BBC Radio Drama: 1922-1956 on the affair. Gielgud said his play was an ‘inconsiderable little comedy’, he had no party political allegiances, and in the words of ‘George, Earl of Eltham, in the play, I believe that “the only consistent political belief held by the English is that all politicians are funny.’


The Archers replaced Dick Barton Special Agent largely because BBC Radio Drama Editor Val Gielgud disliked American style family soaps and sensational crime and thriller serials. The Archers would be preferred because it was originally created to educate farmers about more efficient techniques of production. Five pilot episodes were tried out on the Home Service Midland Region from 29th May 1950, with the description ‘The daily events in the life of a farming family.’ The Light Programme (now Radio 2) ran a fifteen minute programme ‘Introducing The Archers Thursday 28th December 1950 providing ‘The story behind the farm family to be broadcast daily from Monday of next week.’

The first episode of the full series was broadcast nationally on the Light Programme from New Year’s Day 1951 written by Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason- the same writers for Dick Barton Special Agent though now edited by Godfrey Baseley. In a feature article in the Radio Times accompanying details of the first episode Baseley explained that the inspiration for the series arose when he attended a consultation meeting on BBC programmes with farmers. One of them stood up and shouted ‘What we really want is a farming Dick Barton!’ He explained ‘we are keeping records of the daily happenings on an actual farm. Behind us a team of experts will be always ready to keep us up to date with the latest developments.’

The Archers has become the world’s longest-running drama in any broadcast format. By 7th March 2023 it had clocked up 19,941 episodes.

Stephen Williams’ Plays On The Air: A Survey of Drama Broadcasts is published by Hutchinson in March 1951 and is a measure of the cultural significance of radio drama at this time. He explained the book ‘is a selection of weekly articles written for the Radio Times as introductions to plays broadcast during the past three or four years…They were designed solely to interest the listener in the plays as plays- in their plots, their characters, their literary and dramatic qualities. “That is what I think of this play,” I said in effect; “now tell me what you think.’ The book features discussion of 70 different BBC Radio productions.


First Science Fiction regular series Journey Into Space by Charles Chiltern beginning Monday 21st September 1953, at 7.30 p.m. on the Light Programme. ‘The year is 1965 and at a proving ground in New Mexico Sir William Morgan, a leading research scientist, is about to launch an experimental space rocket. Meanwhile his son Jet, piloting a super stratoship sixty miles above the Atlantic on its first passenger trip from London to New York, is racing the clock in order to be at his father’s side. But at New Mexico there is a hitch which dramatically affects the whole situation…’  It was the last British radio programme to attract a bigger evening audience than television. A memorable catchphrase from the series was ‘Orders must be obeyed without question at all times.’ Journey Into Space ran until 18th June 1958 and has become a cult classic in the history of science fiction radio.


Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas was specially written for radio and first broadcast Monday 25th January 1954 on the Third Programme. The one hour and 20 minute production was produced by Douglas Cleverdon with children’s songs and the singing game recorded by the children of Laugharne School. Cleverdon wrote that the BBC eventually received Thomas’s script, originally called The Town Was Mad on the eve of the poet’s departure for New York, only a few weeks before his death. It became the most iconic and popular English speaking poetic verse drama for radio.

Most people can hear the rich tones of Richard Burton’s voice opening the scene with ‘moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black’ and closing it with night darkening the streets once again while above the town ‘the suddenly wind-shaken wood springs alive for the second dark time this one spring day.’ The play won the Prix Italia award for radio drama in 1954.

Robert Bolt’s successful 1966 screenplay and stage play A Man For All Seasons was originally written and broadcast by BBC Radio on 26th July 1954 for the Home Service.  The Radio Times entry for the production included a drawing portrait of Sir Thomas More by Holbein next to the quotation: ‘Sir Thomas More is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness, and affability? And as time requireth, a man of marvellous mirth and pastimes, and sometimes of as sad gravity: a man for all seasons.’  BBC Radio Drama would be the bedrock for a spectacular writing career which included Oscar-winning screenplays for Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and  Doctor Zhivago (1965).


Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall was the poet and playwright’s first radio drama broadcast on the Third Programme 13th January 1957. He had been encouraged to write for radio by the BBC Radio Department’s script editor Barbara Bray and the producer director Donald McWhinnie who travelled to Paris to meet the author of the famous innovative stage play Waiting for Godot. McWhinnie and Beckett thought the opening farming animal noises needed to be carefully syncopated by simulation with a regular beat using human voices. Beckett’s first radio play was set in a rural community in Ireland and McWhinnie described it as ‘a careful synthesis of speech, sound and- as you might expect- silence; hectically funny and bitterly tragic; a story of the inadequacy of life and death, breathing an atmosphere of vitality and ruin, farce and suffocation.’ McWhinnie would collaborate with Beckett on further works written solely for radio including and Embers (1959) and Cascando (1964) with Michael Bakewell directing Words and Music in 1965. Embers would win the Radio Drama prize at Prix Italia in 1959. More Prix Italia awards would be given to BBC Radio Drama productions during the 1950s including The Dock Brief by John Mortimer in 1957, Prisoner’s Progress by Louis MacNeice in 1954, The Streets of Pompei by Henry Reed in 1953, The Face of Violence by Jacob Bronowsky in 1951.

Val Gielgud wrote the BBC’s first history of British Radio Drama: 1922-1956, which was published by George G Harrap in 1957 with a Foreword by the BBC’s then Director General Sir William Haley. Gielgud dedicated the book to ‘Lord Reith, Fred Bell (as representing Technical Studio Assistance and Management), Cynthia Pughe (as representing Script Adaptation and Producers’ Secretaries) without whose efforts and integrities Radio Drama in Great Britain would have been a very different thing.’  Sir William Haley said ‘ “Radio Drama” has become an art-form very much in its own right.’ Gielgud stressed that radio drama’s creative achievements are due to team-work by the writing, performing and directing artists and army of engineers, secretaries and assistants working behind the scenes.


Harold Pinter’s writing career and reputation was established, encouraged and nurtured by a series of influential radio drama commissions under the script editing influence of Barbara Bray between 1959 and 1961. Notable BBC original productions were A Slight Ache (His first for the Third programme on 29th July 1959 and produced by Donald McWhinnie), A Night Out (1st March 1960 for the Third Programme again directed by Donald McWhinnie) and The Dwarfs (2nd December 1960 for the Third Programme, produced by Barbara Bray.)

Donald McWhinnie’s The Art of Radio is published by Faber and Faber in 1959. McWhinnie is revered as one of the most progressive, creative and modernist radio drama producers of the post war period. The book engages closes analysis and explanation of the significance of plays written by Samuel Beckett and Giles Cooper and McWhinnie’s production of them. McWhinnie said: ‘..the purpose of this book is to consider … the particular quality of Sound Radio as a means of artistic expression; to reinvestigate the principles and practice of an art-form which has often and unjustly, been regarded as too ephemeral to merit serious consideration; to analyse the aesthetic of Sound Radio as a creative art.  It is addressed to those listeners and writers throughout the world who find in Sound Radio the possibility of a unique kind of artistic fulfilment, a special way of liberating the imagination.’

In 1961-2, BBC Radio decided to retrospectively celebrate the decade just past with a series of 25 major productions of original radio plays and adaptations of stage plays under the title From The Fifties. The producers. Michael Bakewell and Eric Ewens, produced a book to accompany the series with the same title and explained ‘We have deliberately limited our exploration to England and to Europe, since for reasons of copyright the works of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner were not available.’ The series included: The Cocktail Party by T S Eliot, Saint’s Day by John Whiting, The Love of Four Colonels by Peter Ustinov, Nekrassov by Jean-Paul Sartre, A Sleep of Prisoners by Christopher Fry, Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis, Hurry on Down by John Wain, Pincher Martin by William Golding, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, The Hostage by Brenda Behan, Variation on a Theme by Terence Rattigan, The Lark by Jean Anouilh, A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney,  The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht, The Queen and the Rebels by Ugo Betti, The Bald Prima Donna and The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, Orphée by Jean Cocteau, Dangerous World by Giles Cooper, The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman, Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance by John Arden, The Dock Brief by John Mortimer, A Resounding Tinkle by N.F. Simpson, and The Caretaker by Harold Pinter.


First radio production of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey on the Third Programme. Val Gielgud would initially prevent Alfred Bradley from producing it 1958-9 when it had premièred at Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Royal Stratford East and transferred to the West End. He had objected to the positive representation of a gay man.

This was in the context of Gielgud having been married and divorced 5 times and his brother John having been the victim of a criminal conviction for homosexuality in 1953. Gielgud would relent by 1961. Bradley was able to present a production for the Third Programme by The Company of the Library Theatre of Manchester on March 3rd and on 15th September its film version produced and directed by Tony Richardson would open in Leicester Square.


Caryl Churchill’s first radio play The Ants  broadcast 27th November 1962 on the Third Programme. ‘Tim, a small boy is playing with his friends the ants. Somewhere there is a war going on and “we” have bombed and killed thousands of “them”. Tim’s mother wants him to come and live with her and his father wants him to live with him, the boy is confused.  Special effects were by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the play was produced by Michael Bakewell. Caryl Churchill would go onto write a canon of influential radio plays and become one of Britain’s leading playwrights with plays premièred at the Royal Court Theatre.

Further notable plays written by Caryl specifically for radio during the 1960s were Lovesick (1967)  and Identical Twins (1968) in which the actor Kenneth Haigh played two identical twins Teddy and Clive. ‘Outwardly, Teddy and Clive look alike and they both share a similar upbringing – but, however identical they appear, they possess different identities as individuals. As different as they try to be there are certain things in which they cannot help but be the same. Consequently neither Teddy nor Clive can feel completely free. But the death of one of them could free the other-perhaps. Both plays were directed and produced by John Tydeman.

The Long, Long Trail was a musical feature dramatization with ‘Soldiers’ Songs of the First World War’ devised and produced by Charles Chilton for broadcast on the Home Service 21st February 1962. It would be the inspiration and basis for Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Royal Stratford East musical Oh What a Lovely War! which would be later made into an equally successful film.

One of the most successful films of the 1960s Alfie (1966) originated first as a BBC Radio Drama production for the Third Programme 7th January 1962 with the title Alfie Elkins and His Little Life. The Bolton based northern playwright Bill Naughton was a regularly commissioned writer for BBC Radio from the 1940s to the time he passed away in 1992. The Alfie radio play was produced and directed by Douglas Cleverdon and the favourable critical reception led to the character and story developing into novel and film: ‘some of the critics wrote: This was proper radio….. In one of the best bits of acting I have ever heard. Bill Owen juts the man through the words, stabbing the Cockney sentences through endless cigarette butts (Sunday Telegraph). This is, as the title makes plain, a ‘ little life,’ but it was a brilliant radio portrait (Glasgow Herald).


The appointment of Martin Esslin as the third Editor/Head of BBC Radio Drama from 1963 to 1976 led to the establishment of the BBC’s reputation for having a ‘National Theatre of the Air.’ He evangelized how radio plays cumulatively reached vastly greater audience in terms of millions of listeners compared to traditional stage theatre and operated as a significant creative hub of new writing development. He also highlighted how BBC Radio Drama inspired and connected a winder consciousness of international culture.  

Esslin was a Hungarian-Austrian refugee with Jewish heritage who fled Vienna after the the Nazi German annexation of Austria known as Anschluss in 1938. He was an academic, intellectual and creative tour-de-force whose multiple language skills gained him employment with the BBC Monitoring Service at the start of the Second World War when he later confessed poverty, unemployment and depression about the world situation had left him in despair.  

He wrote influential books introducing Bertolt Brecht to British theatre culture and practice with  Brecht: A Choice of Evils. A Critical Study of the Man, his Work and his Opinions (1959)and he coined the term ‘theatre of the absurd’ in the title and content of 1961 book The Theatre of the Absurd. This has been described as one of the most influential theatrical texts of the 1960s. Esslin fostered and developed a wider international nexus and outlook for BBC Radio Drama, and managed a more stable and supportive environment for young producers and script editors who included John Tydeman, Richard Imison, and William Ash.


Joe Orton 1964 and his first professional drama production The Ruffian on the Stair was ‘discovered’ by John Tydeman in the BBC Radio Drama Department. He saw a script called ‘The Boy Hair Dresser’ about to be returned, intercepted it and called Orton in for discussion to feedback and encourage rewriting. Orton followed through and was consequently first professionally produced by the BBC. Orton gave Tydeman his stage script Entertaining Mr Sloane to read. Tydeman introduced him to the agent Peggy Ramsey and it was immediately taken up and produced at the Arts Theatre in London.  Here was a classic example of the most talented and brilliant writers of their time gaining their first opportunities and success through radio drama.

The playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard had his debut in professional writing in 1964 with BBC Radio Drama. The 15 minute play on the Light Programme called The Dissolution of Dominic Boot was broadcast on 20th February 1964 in a special strand titled ‘Just Before Midnight’ established to host new writing. This would be the beginning of a stellar career and as his fame and success in theatre, film and television grew exponentially he continued writing substantial new plays for the radio medium.   In the Native State (1991) won a Giles Cooper award and was later transferred to the theatre under the title Indian Ink. His radio plays were considered of such cultural and literary importance, the British Library produced a special five disc CD collection in 2012 including the first BBC productions of Albert’s Bridge (13th July 1967), Artist Descending A Staircase (14th November 1972), The Dog It Was That Died (9th December 1982), and In The Native State (21st April 1991).

The BBC won four Prix Italia prizes for radio drama during the 1960s- joint first with Japan in achieving the most awards during this decade.

Winning productions included Tom Stoppard’s 1967 play Albert’s Bridge (Prix Italia 1968) produced by Charles Lefeaux, The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark- an adaptation and production of her novel by Christopher Holme broadcast 7th October 1960 on the Third Programme (Prix Italia 1962).

The National Theatre of the Air– influential BBC Lunch-time lecture by Martin Esslin, Head of BBC Radio Drama in the Concert Hall at Broadcasting House 8th January 1964. Esslin put into words a manifesto for the public service broadcasting values of BBC Radio drama. He explained that whereas the country’s National stage theatre produced between eight to twelve new plays each year, BBC Radio originates between four and five hundred. He said: ‘What gives us the right to claim to be called a National Theatre of the Air is, I believe the fact that on sound radio, much more so than on television, the BBC is able to provide a public service covering the entire range of drama from the family serial at one end to the most esoteric and experimental kind of play at the other end of the spectrum. We are enabled to provide such a service because radio, with its three programme networks, is in a position to cater for a mass audience and the various minority audiences at one and the same time.’ He went onto outline the advantages of radio drama, the nurturing of talent achieved by radio drama, it recent role in introducing European Drama to British culture, and the dual aspect of ‘systematically helping young dramatists and scanning the world for dramatic material which ought to become known in this country, and keeping the great work of the past alive by assuring it of performance at regular intervals.’ He highlighted the achievement of establishing a tradition of excellence, its function as an artistic, literary and cultural patron, and how its sound art is imaginatively ‘visually satisfying.’

He explained radio drama ‘can paint any picture, however complex, however horrible, however beautiful, however fantastic and will never fall short in doing so, provided the words and the performance that are to conjure up the picture are the right ones.’ Lastly he highlighted the international prestige BBC Radio Drama achieves for the United Kingdom- ‘this work makes a really appreciable contribution to British cultural prestige in the United States and throughout the English-speaking world. It is only because this work is being done as a public service that it is at all possible: and it truly is a public service not only to the people of this country but also to many millions beyond its frontier.’


In 1965 BBC Drama secured two out of the three Prix Italia radio prizes. One was for The Anger of Achilles by Robert Graves, which was ‘An epic for radio in three parts by Robert Graves from his translation of Homer’s Iliad broadcast across three Sunday Play slots on the Home Service between May 17th and May 24th 1964. This was abridged and directed by Raymond Raikes.  

The other was a Prix Italia prize for Stereophony in a new production of The Foundling by Peter Gurney first broadcast 24th January 1959 on the Third Programme and also produced by Raymond Raikes. This was a verse play and Raymond Raikes received special recognition for directing a drama production using the technical and creative positioning of the stereo sound field.

The stereophonic production was broadcast on Christmas Eve Sunday 24th December 1967, from 8.35 p.m. on the newly branded BBC Radio 3 which used to be the Third Programme. Rather unusually the BBC made a point of specifically crediting studio managers and sound engineers and even the VHF transmitter: ‘Gravestones. Churchgoers, Gargoyles, and Searchers played by members of the cast with The Ambrosian Singers and Sinfonia of London, Conducted by Marcus Dom,  Technical Assistants: Erie Dougharty (Music), David Stripp (Stereophony), Harry Catlin (Panel operator) Brian Farnham (Special effects) Anne Stewart (Effects), Richard Clark (Recording editor), produced by Raymond Raikes and transmitted in stereo from Wrotham, Brighton, Dover VHF.


The BBC publishes Giles Cooper: Six Plays for Radio with an introduction and appreciation by Donald McWhinnie. McWhinnie said Cooper ‘uses every shorthand device of imaginative radio to paint, in farce and bitter irony, a man’s life, his aspirations, his failures, and his will to survive. This is radio at its virtuoso best.’ The volume includes Mathry Beacon, first broadcast 18th June 1956 on the Third Programme, The Disagreeable Oyster first broadcast 15th August 1957 on the Third Programme, Without the Grail, first broadcast 13th January 1958 on the Home Service, Under the Loofah Tree first broadcast 3rd August 1958 on the Third Programme, Unman, Wittering and Zigo first broadcast 23rd November 1958 on the Third Programme, and Before the Monday first broadcast 4th June 1959 on the Third Programme.

The BBC would publish New Radio Drama introduced by Martin Esslin in 1966 to mark the powerful contribution BBC Radio Drama had been making to what was being described as the counter-culture age. Esslin revealed that in 1964 BBC Radio produced 775 new works of drama for radio outside the production of soaps and series. Of these, 395 were specially written for the sound medium. Esslin observed: ‘writers who started their career as dramatists in radio have proved their wide popular appeal. Among them we find names like Giles Cooper, Alun Owen, Robert Bolt, Willis Hall, Bill Naughton, John Arden (whose first dramatic effort was a radio play entered by him in a North Region drama competition) James Forsyth, Harold Pinter (who started with some failures in the live theatre and was greatly encouraged by commissions from the BBC to persist as a dramatic writer), John Mortimer, Henry Livings, and a host of others.’ The volume included Tonight is Friday by Colin Finbow first broadcast on the Third Programme 2nd October 1962, A Voice like Thunder by Ian Rodger first broadcast on the Home Service 24th June 1963, A Nice Clean Sheet of Paper by Rhys Adrian first broadcast on the Third Programme 24th October 1963, Sixteen Lives of the Drunken Dreamer by Stephen Grenfell first broadcast on Home Service 11th January 1964, The Ruffian on the Stair by Joe Orton first broadcast on the Third Programme 31st August 1964, and The Sconcing Soup by Simon Raven first broadcast by the Home Service 17th October 1964.


The 1960s would be marked with synthesis between BBC radio play production and secondary education through the publication of Worth A Hearing in the student drama series distributed by educational publishers Blackie. The volume of plays was compiled by Alfred Bradley, Senior Drama Producer BBC North Region with a contribution and questions for drama workshop and classroom discussionby Michael Marland, Head of the English Department, Crown Woods School, London. Bradley selected seminal radio plays by writers, some of whom had become and were becoming household names in the wider field of stage, television and film. They included The Mating Season by Alan Plater first broadcast 16th January 1962 on BBC Home Service North, The Dock Brief by John Mortimer first broadcast 6th May 1957 on the Third Programme, Don’t Wait For Me by David Campton first broadcast 19th February 1964 on BBC Home Service North, She’ll Make Trouble by Bill Naughton first broadcast 13th December 1958 on BBC Home Service Basic, and The Day Dumbfounded Got His Pylon by Henry Livings first broadcast 29th January 1964 on BBC Home Service North.

Michael Marland wrote that he hoped the book would encourage schools to produce sound drama in schools as part of their English education: ‘These five plays were invented in their writers’ minds as dramas in sound. It was on the radio that they first came to life. Each has a quality that is aural and not sound: Stan’s conversations with Jack, for instance [in The Mating Season]; the memories so effortlessly recalled by the cross-facing in Don’t Wait For Me; the lunatic conversation in The Day Dumbfounded Got His Pylon. All these are creations that can excite the dramatic imaginations of listeners- even on a modest school tape-recorder.’


Penguin books would acknowledge BBC Radio Drama’s contribution to dramatic literature and culture with volume 12 of its series New English Dramatists being devoted to Radio Plays. In the introduction by Irving Wardle the BBC Radio Drama Department was described as ‘the most comprehensive play production organisation in the country. It puts out something between 800 to 1,000 scripts a year (excluding The Dales and The Archers). Wardle said: ‘Without the persistence of the radio producer Nesta Pain, who was determined to extract play from him, The Dock Brief would probably not have been written and Mortimer might well have remained a novelist.’ Penguin’s Radio Plays volume contained six plays: The Object by Giles Cooper first broadcast on the Third Programme 17th April 1964, No Quarter by Barry Bermange first broadcast on the Third Programme 3rd November 1962, The Ants by Caryl Churchill first broadcast on the Third Programme 27th November 1962,  The Whelks and the Chromium by Jeremy Sandford first broadcast on the Third Programme 4th November 1958, The Long Distance Piano-player: A Parable for Radio by Alan Sharp first broadcast on the Third Programme 17th August 1962, and Happy Days are Here Again by Cecil P Taylor first broadcast on the Third Programme 20th January 1967.

Penguin explained the significance and special appeal of the radio dramas selected:

The Object is a brilliant example of absurdist drama, its naturalistic opening is a springboard into a fantastic development.

No Quarter is set in the pitch darkness of a decaying hotel, where in an atmosphere of mounting terror people learn what it means to wait and to be alone.

The action of The Ants develops from a single bold metaphor, and explores radio’s special territory midway between poetry and the theatre.

In The Whelks and the Chromium the microphone rivals the camera as reporter of the pleasure-beach panorama, conjuring up the atmosphere, both tawdry and glamorous, of Southend and its crowds. A duet for piano and narrator.

The Long-distance Piano-player combines highly coloured narrative with music and colloquial dialogue.

Happy Days are Here Again, a ‘comedy of menace’, hovers between fact and fantasy, in a world that has recently been discovered by the theatre of the absurd and is radio drama’s natural home.


BBC Radio Brighton and BBC Radio Three broadcast Oluwale– the first UK mainstream media dramatization of the racist bullying and persecution of Nigerian migrant David Oluwale in Leeds who died in 1969 after being assaulted by police officers. The script by Cathy Come Home dramatist Jeremy Sandford tells the story of David Oluwale’s life in Britain and the first conviction of any police officers in Britain for a racist assault leading to the death of a black man in.


Cries from Casement as His Bones are Brought to Dublin, by David Rudkin first broadcast 4th February 1973  on BBC Radio 3, about the life, times, and execution of Sir Roger Casement containing a ‘potent brew of explicit language, gay sex scenes and Irish nationalism.’ Director John Tydeman said it was ‘One of the best radio scripts ever written.’ The Radio Times said the play would raise the questions: Is there a parallel between his history and Ireland’s? Is there a lesson to be learned from it?’


Hitchikers’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. First broadcast 8th March 1978 on BBC Radio 4- ‘In which the earth is unexpectedly destroyed and the great hitch-hike begins. An epic adventure in time and space including some helpful advice on how to see the Universe for less than 30 Altairian dollars a day.’ It would lead to a television series, best-selling series of books and attract a new generation of younger listeners to BBC sound drama.

The beginning of the Giles Cooper Best Radio Play awards for BBC radio playwrights that would include publication of the scripts annually in volumes published Methuen and running until 1991. The awards commemorated the writer Giles Cooper who was regarded as one of the most innovative and original writers of radio plays in the post Second World War period.


First broadcast of The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter for BBC Radio 3, 1st May 1980 and directed by Glyn Dearman, regarded as one of the most influential and innovative radio plays to re-imagine fairy tales and in the words of Angela Carter herself explore ‘the atavistic lure, the atavistic power, of voices in the dark, and the writer who gives the words to those voices retains some of the authority of the most antique tellers of tales.’ 


First episode of Sue Townsend’s The Diary of Nigel Mole Aged 13¾ first broadcast 5th January 1982 in BBC R4 Thirty Minute Theatre. This would immediately lead to a book contract with the Nigel name being changed to that of his friend Adrian, the release of an instant best-selling book, and launch Sue Townsend on a successful writing career. The director John Tydeman would bring the story back to BBC Radio 4 from 2nd September 1982 in a seven part series under the new title The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and the actor Nicholas Barnes still playing the 13¾ year-old diarist.


First radio drama commission for Caryl Phillips, The Wasted Years, which would win a Giles Cooper Award for that year.  This was a seminal play exploring the experiences of the Windrush generation of migrants and their children and first broadcast 12th March 1984, on BBC Radio 4 starring Carmen Munroe Rudolph Walker and Tony Armatrading. The Radio Times said: ‘ A bright 16-year-old, about to leave school, is going through a bad patch. His schoolwork has deteriorated, his conduct is becoming rebellious or that’s what Mr Teale thinks … But Solly is the only black face in the class and that makes all the difference.’ This inaugurated a distinguished career of BBC Radio Drama plays accompanying the development of his global status as one of the most significant novelists of his time.


Anthony Minghella’s first original radio play Hang Up broadcast 19th November 1987 on BBC Radio Three would win Prix Italia. His next radio play, Cigarettes and Chocolate,for BBC R4 first broadcast 6th November 1988 received a Giles Cooper award. The BBC commissioned and recognised a playwright and screenwriter who would achieve world- wide award-winning success for the films Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), The English Patient (1996), and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).


BBC Young Radio Playwrights’ Festival introducing Benjamin Zephaniah as a radio playwright with his verse play Hurricane Dub first broadcast on BBC R4  17th October 1988. The Festival was produced by director Jeremy Mortimer and symbolises the role BBC Radio Drama has played in commissioning and recognising outstanding Black and Asian British dramatists who are now mainstream writers in multiple fields of dramatic expression. These would include Bonnie Greer, Winsome Pinnock, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Roy Williams, Lenny Henry, Benjamin Zephaniah, Tanika Gupta, and Ayeesha Menon.


Tom Stoppard’s In the Native State commissioned by BBC Radio and first broadcast 21st April 1991 on BBC Radio 3 won a Giles Cooper award and was later transferred to the theatre under the title Indian Ink. His radio plays were considered of such cultural and literary importance, the British Library produced a special five disc CD collection in 2012 including the first BBC productions of the Prix Italia winning Albert’s Bridge (13th July 1967), Artist Descending A Staircase (14th November 1972), The Dog It Was That Died (9th December 1982), and In The Native State. BBC Radio Drama gave him his debut in professional writing with the 15 minute play on the Light Programme called The Dissolution of Dominic Boot broadcast on 20th February 1964.


Caroline Raphael becomes first woman Head of BBC Radio Drama from 1994 to 1997, and was then appointed the first BBC R4 Commissioner for Drama programmes. She would be followed by Kate Rowland as 7th Head BBC Radio Drama 1997 to 2001, Gordon House as 8th Head 2001 to 2005 and Alison Hindell as 9th Head BBC Radio Drama 2005 to 2018 with the role being renamed ‘Head of Audio Drama.’ Alison is now commissioning editor for BBC R4 Drama and Fiction.


The novel Bomber by Len Deighton is dramatized by Joe Dunlop and the drama-documentary production in Dolby Prologic Surround Sound is broadcast Saturday 18th February on BBC Radio 4 in real time throughout the day as if it covered the timespan of an actual bombing raid on Germany during World War Two.  This production continues BBC Radio’s rich tradition of blending documentary reminiscences from the men and women who were involved on both sides with intense creative dramatization of the historical events they were part of.


Spoonface Steinberg by Lee Hall first broadcast 27th January 1997 on BBC Radio 4 and directed by Kate Rowland who described the impact of the play as her ‘Orson Welles War of the Worlds moment.’ The poignant monologue of a 7 year-old autistic girl dying of cancer met overwhelming public acclaim, led to a BBC film production and stage play and was part of a quartet of radio plays- I Luv You Jimmy Spud, The Love Letters of Ragie Patel, and The Sorrows of Sandra Saint. Hall’s writing career would develop with great success for his screenplay of the film Billy Elliot (2000) and the book and lyrics for its adaptation as a stage musical of the same name.


David Pownall’s Epiphanous Use of the Microphone is one of the most elegant and sophisticated radio plays about the making of radio plays- first broadcast 15th May 1998 on BBC R4. It was commissioned to celebrate 75 years of BBC radio drama with a dramatic exploration of the BBC’s first production of a full-length Shakespeare play- Twelfth Night. Pownall juxtaposes the tensions and challenges at the BBC’s Savoy Hill HQ in 1923 between Managing Director John Reith and the adapter and director Cathleen Nesbitt with the menaces and jeopardy facing William Shakespeare himself during the play’s first production in 1602 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st.


BBC Radio Three The Wire. The Incomplete Recorded Works of a Dead Body by Ed Hime and directed by Jessica Dromgoole. Innovative in developing ‘fictional found sound storytelling’ and recognised with the award of the Prix Italia prize for radio fiction.  First broadcast 31st March 2007 and described in the Radio Times as a‘..blackly comic fictional documentary combines a collage of deliberate recordings, from police surveillance tapes to an unfinished installation piece on pigeons, as it follows Babak Beyrouti, famous Iranian sound recordist and agoraphobic, as he braves London in his quest for lost love.’

Q&A by Ayeesha Menon from the novel by Vikas Swarup. First broadcast BBC R4 30th July 2007 and produced with location performance and production by John Dryden. The story of a street kid who goes on an Indian TV game show. Derived from the novel behind the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire.

Between 1998 and 2010, the development of the BBC’s Writersroom, originated by the Head of Radio Drama Kate Rowland, into a multiplatform resource, workshop and public service culture of encouraging, supporting and developing new writers in all media. The launch of the Writersroom online portal is symbolic of radio drama nurturing of new writing evolving into audio-dramatic story telling in the digital age and storytelling through podcasts. 


The dramatization by Mike Walker of Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate first broadcast 18th September 2011 BBC Radio 4, and directed by Alison Hindell represents a radical and significant development in audio drama’s ability to bring recognition and advance the importance of previously neglected literature. Life and Fate starred Kenneth Branagh, Greta Scacchi, Harriet Walter and Nigel Anthony and charted the fate of both a nation and a family in the turmoil of war set against the ferocious Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.  Its comparison of Stalinism with Nazism was considered by Soviet authorities to be so dangerous that the manuscript itself was arrested. The production triggered so much interest in Grossman’s work, it led to BBC Radio’s production of Grossman’s prequel to Life and Fate, newly published in its first ever English translation by Richard and Elizabeth Chandler and the development of the series Grossman’s War.

Lost Property– a trilogy of plays by Katie Hims and directed by Jessica Dromgoole which tells the story of a family over three generations. First broadcast 3rd May 2011 on BBC Radio 4 with episode 1 The Wrong Label. ‘London, 1941, and Alice knows that to stop your children from being evacuated is tantamount to siding with Hitler.’ Part of a trilogy of plays which won the 2011 BBC Audio Drama Award for Best Drama, where Rosie Cavaliero also picked up the Best Actress award.

Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster drama-documentary directed by Susan Roberts, and poetry by Simon Armitage, first broadcast 11th March 2011. Continuing the powerful tradition of creative verse drama combined with documentary interview.This was a sound elegy to the young gap-year student who was attacked in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire and who later died on August 24th 2007. Sophie tells her own story through a series of poignant poems written by the award-winning poet Simon Armitage alongside her mother, Sylvia Lancaster remembering her daughter’s shortened life.


The Interrogation by Roy Williams, first broadcast on BBC Radio 13th February 2012. The origination of a new, innovative and socially conscious detective series. It has been produced over eight series to 2021 and established a unique reputation for using the radio drama medium to tell hard hitting and realistic stories of modern crime. The radio critic of the Spectator said Roy Williams ‘..writes about the stuff you’d rather not know, prefer not to think about, pretend to ignore. But it lives on with you in the mind. It won’t let you go. By his words, the sharp, brittle, spot-on dialogue, he forces you to recognise the limitations of your experience, your understanding.’ 


Home Front and Tommies- Great War radio drama series made to coincide and commemorate 100 years since Great Britain was engaged in a total global war on the Western and other overseas Fronts and the Home Front between 1914 and 1918.  It can be argued that Home Front is one of the most ambitious historical drama projects in the history of British radio. The first episode was broadcast 4th August 2014 on BBC Radio 4. Each episode was set in Great War Britain exactly one hundred years before its original broadcast on BBC Radio. In the first episode, ‘as Britain waits for Germany’s response to their ultimatum, in Folkestone, Kitty Wilson has a deadline of her own.’ It was described in 2014 as ‘ a ground-breaking new Radio Four radio drama – its biggest ever at around 600 episodes – …playing a central role in the BBC’s comprehensive offering to mark the centenaries of World War One.’  Tommies was a drama series with immersive sound design created by Jonathan Ruffle and meticulously based on unit war diaries and eye-witness accounts.  Like Home Front each episode traced one real day at war, this time the military Front Line,  exactly 100 years before the day of broadcast- the first episode went out on BBC Radio 4 7th October 2014.


The creation of Life Lines written by Al Smith and directed by Sally Avens is representative of qualitative original writing and production for broadcast radio and online sound podcasting. From the production of the first series in 2016 it offered the ideal content and flexible length of storytelling to meet the development and launch of BBC Sounds in 2018. Life Lines is set in an ambulance control room where the paramedic controller Carrie faces a series of heart stopping emergencies at work. The first series of Life Lines won Best Series at the Audio Drama Awards, Best Drama at the Radio Awards and Best Fictional Storytelling at The Audio Radio Industry Awards in 2017. In 2022 Life Lines would win a further Audio Drama Award for Best Original Series or Serial.


The major dramatisation of the novel Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie broadcast over one day. Another example of ambition and grand scale of production by BBC Radio Drama. On 15th August 2017 most of the BBC Radio 4 schedule is taken over by a seven part dramatization of Salman Rushdie’s dazzling novel of love, history and magic. This takes place on the day of the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India. The listener embarks on a story beginning with the birth of Saleem Sinai on the stroke of midnight on 15th August 1947, at the exact moment that India and Pakistan become separate, independent nations. The novel was dramatised by Ayeesha Menon. Both Ayeesha and the production would be recognised with the BBC’s Outstanding Contribution to Audio Drama award in 2018. 


The Jungle Book written and directed by Ayeesha Menon who takes Rudyard Kipling’s family classic and gives it a darker twist, re-imagining it in the concrete jungle of present-day India. Described by the Radio Times as ‘a gangland coming-of-age fable.’ First broadcast in episodes on BBC R4 from 6th March 2021. The production marks the successful contribution of the independent sector to BBC Radio Drama and the ingenuity and technical skill of the Goldhawk production team to produce the entire series remotely using digital global networks of sound connections during the COVID pandemic and lockdown.


The significance of continuing original audio drama writing and production in nation regions such as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is recognised with the Richard Imison award given to The Lemonade Lads by Faebian Averies and produced by James Robinson at BBC Cymru Wales for BBC Radio 4, and BBC Scotland producing for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds podcasting The System by Ben Lewis- described as ‘a propulsive thriller.’  Richard Imison was a legendary literary/script editor in BBC Radio Drama through the 1970s and 80s and represents the huge contribution made by the BBC’s support for new writing in the sound drama medium. This inspired the creation and development of the BBC’s Writersroom from 1998.


The BBC marks the Centenary of Audio / Radio Drama with dedicated programming at several points in the year and the Contains Strong Language festival, in conjunction with the Leeds Playhouse, holds a three-day symposium and celebration of the genre. This includes a live recording of the first radio dramatisation of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller…, adapted by and starring the actor Toby Jones.

To be continued…

BBC Radio Drama History- 100 years since 1922

The BBC formally started as a licensed broadcaster in 1922 with its London station called 2LO, hence 2022 being its centenary .

Scripts and sounds of what they did at this time have not survived.

But written accounts by people involved show it was a lot of fun, creatively so exciting and interesting.

This seeks to be an entertaining and informative history of BBC Radio Drama.

In the spirit of the Writing Audio Drama book I want to celebrate British radio drama’s contribution to the cultural, artistic and literary heritage of Britain as well as encourage and respect all of the contemporary audio drama writing, making and listening.

Long may it continue and please can there be more of it.

In the slideshow above, some random images from the BBC’s radio drama history: portraits of Arthur Burrows, the first Director of Programmes, John Reith, the first MD, and Cecil Lewis, an early radio drama director and writer.

The gentleman holding the script in front of an early microphone in the BBC’s first broadcast studio at the top of Marconi House is BBC’s first journalist, newscaster and lead actor in the first play specially written for radio, Arthur Richard Burrows. He played Father Christmas on Christmas Eve 1922.

He compiled and presented the BBC’s first news bulletin on 14th November 1922 when he reported the results of the General Election.

The bulletin went out at 6 pm with the information supplied by news agencies, followed by a weather forecast, prepared by the Met Office. Arthur read the bulletin twice, once fast and then slowly, so that listeners could take notes if they wished.

The first broadcast studios at Savoy Hill where they made many of the first radio dramas, and BBC ‘Aunties’- Miss Phyllis Thomas and Miss Sophie Dixon- women writers, performers and presenters for children’s programming,

Also featured are the covers of books of radio plays, an article on writing a radio play in the 1970s, the cover of Val Gielgud’s history of BBC radio drama between 1922 and 1956, and a book on the history of BBC engineering.

Two of the key and early programme organisers, Arthur Burrows and Cecil Lewis wrote and published books about their experiences in 1924. As did the BBC’s first managing Director John C W Reith.

Early images of BBC radio drama production and performance. An illustration of BBC Savoy Hill on the embankment near the back of the Savoy Hotel by Henry Rushbury.

It was a busy and bustling place with artists, public figures and staff coming to and fro after being dropped off by taxi.

Views of the heavily draped BBC studios at Savoy Hill, and the early ‘meat-safe’ microphone on wheels. Can you spot the man sitting in one of the studio arm-chairs?

Posed pictures of actors in the productions of The Chinese Puzzle, an adaptation of a stage play by Leon M. Lion and Marion Bower, and The Grey Ash by Leonora Thornber, and a variety production with the performers all singing in the direction of the microphone.

The dynamic movement indicated was not faked. Early performances believed in giving some physicality behind the speaking of dialogue and sound action. But very quickly directors and performers appreciated that projection in the stage theatre was not needed.

The declaratory style of performance did not work. The microphone was sensitive. It was like the ear of the listener.

Intimacy could be achieved with gentle up close and personal speaking as though the microphone was the listener’s face.

Spatiality and distance in sound was achieved by drawing away and speaking sideways to the microphone’s position.

Director/producers learned by listening on headphones and shutting their eyes rather than looking at the actors.


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