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Radio Drama: the Stage of the Mind

ISSUE:  Winter 1985

Radio drama in the 1980’s is as British as a thatched roof—and, many think, as outdated. But if numbers argue interest, radio drama must, in fact, be hale. Every week of the year, for example, BBC Radio’s Saturdaynight play, repeated on the Monday, attracts a combined audience of approximately one million listeners. What this audience is seeking and is at a loss to find in any other medium, including movies and the stage, is an intimacy, a personal dimension, that makes every encounter with radio drama an encounter with one’s own imagination.

Those who grew up thrilling to The Shadow understand. None of Hollywood’s grim ogres can evoke delicious terror like the spectral shapes revealed to ardent children of the 40’s when the night was still, the room was dark, and the radio intoned the words, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” What’s seen, and therefore known, is of necessity less threatening than what radio produces—a teasing apparition of the mind. Thus the movies themselves, when they want to curdle blood, show monstrosities only in glimpses. A jagged scar that’s edged with blood, a twisted body cast in gloom, a claw or fang about to strike, all generate a hot suspense that slackens off perceptibly when once the monster’s seen in full, sized up, and known for what he is: an eyesore that it isn’t death to look upon. In radio, by contrast, a monster that appalls the mind might well induce the heart to stop, if ever he were met with in the flesh.

When the movies and TV exploit their own peculiar virtues, they invite the viewer not to use his own imagination, but to take for real the images he’s shown—to look through the eyes of the camera and see, as in life, the events that unfold. The stage, too, creates an impression of immediacy. But in radio, the craft is of a largely different sort. For what radio exploits, in full, is not the passive power of the eye to behold, but the versatile genius of the mind to create. Radio gives voice to words and energy to sound and then, because no scene is drawn, leaves the mind unfettered to envision not the things it must, but rather those it will.

To be “entertained through my ears and otherwise be free.” That is how noted British actor Paul Scofield has described the experience of listening to radio drama. “You’re really a prisoner when watching TV,” he recently explained in a genial telephone interview. Radio, by contrast, as Scofield observed, leaves one free to feel the pleasant sense of being at one’s ease in one’s own home. Not that listening to radio is comfortable or lulling. Since it “uses a part of your mind that you otherwise wouldn’t be using,” radio, in Scofield’s opinion, requires “a committed audience.” Most of his colleagues would readily agree, though they’d probably add that such commitment presupposes an incentive to listen—an incentive that can only be created by a vividly dramatic script dramatically performed.

Or perhaps a great performance alone is enough. The standard wry comment of the American theater enthusiast, that he would buy a front-row seat to hear a major British actor read a listing of names from the telephone book, may exaggerate, but not by very much. Chekhov, or Brecht, or even Shakespeare badly done is a refined, exquisite torture, while a text that drags its slow length out with everlasting tedium acquires grace and speed when it’s spoken by a vibrant, fluid voice. So in radio, where voice is all an actor has to offer, a voice that can command or coax, provoke a smile or wield a cutting edge, would seem to be the surest gauge of excellence. Through its pliancy and range, its color, pitch, and volume, its chosen intonations and precision, the actor’s voice discloses his engagement with the text and exacts from those who listen a similar engagement, till imagination gathers force, fleshes out the words, and makes them live.

It’s an act of generosity, this fleshing out of words in radio drama. If, as Scofield explained, the microphone becomes “a kind of doorway to the audience,” then he, in his acting, must imagine a gathering of listeners, just as they, in their listening, must imagine a company of actors. In a sense, they create one another, these actors and listeners, so that when Scofield remarked that in radio drama he’s “working with other people’s imagination,” he must have ultimately meant that he’s working not only on their inclination to imagine, but also by grace of that particular inclination. It would seem we’ve come full circle: radio drama does indeed require a “committed audience”—an audience expecting not to be presented with a spectacle upon a gilded stage but rather to be challenged to create a gilded vision in the theater of the mind.

Just how richly an audience responds to this challenge depends, at least in part, on its past familiarity with radio. Radio drama is a habit that has to be acquired—and a habit, in truth, that a great many listeners are willing to forgo. But for those who delight in the dangerous high-wire act of sending the imagination out to cross a vast abyss supported only by an insubstantial string of spoken words, what’s essential is a cast of actors able to invest those words with tensile strength. As Scofield suggested, “a reading, in the end, is different from a performance, although by a sleight of hand one’s got to make it look like a performance.” The metaphor, “a sleight of hand,” was uttered without irony; yet hands, with all their quick, expressive gestures, are among the many tools of which an actor is deprived when he undertakes to play a radio drama. Thus, for Scofield, radio is a medium that “makes totally different demands from that of the theater.” To perform a part in radio, an actor must display not just the talent, but the pluck, to compensate for elemental losses.

No costumes, no makeup, no scenery, no audience, no lengthy rehearsals, no visible movements or gestures—the catalog is nothing less than daunting. And the prospect of performing without nets, so to speak, without scaffolds to break a free fall should an actor miss his footing in delivering his lines, must unnerve even those who exult in the freedom that radio affords them. Yet freedom, however paradoxical, is precisely the prize that is given to those who engage in radio acting. For when movements and gestures become incidental, when costumes and makeup and scenery require no attention, when an audience isn’t at hand to capture control by its murmurs and silences, an actor is free to attend to the text and interpret his part as he wishes. Even the unforgiving schedule for rehearsals and taping—four days are the maximum the BBC allots for a 90-minute radio drama—can become an advantage. Though the rush may leave actors unduly dependent on the will of the director, the need to work in haste provides actors with the freedom to rely on intuition. There’s a pride, evidently, that actors share with athletes in hitting the right pace and hitting it fast. Praise an actor for the speed with which he and his fellows grow into their radio parts, and the answer will always be the same: “But of course,” he replies, “we’re professionals.”

And it’s well that they are; for in radio anything less than professional acting gives itself away at the first sign of secondhand emotion. True, the state of the art has improved since the days when all radio was live. Now, for example, the tape of a speech that’s amiss can be easily discarded and recorded again with agreeable results. But a speech, or even several, can’t redeem a whole performance; and should all an actor’s lines go lame, there’s little, if anything, that anyone can do to hide the defect. As long as the tape is preserved, the offending performance endures, while as if by some merciless irony of fate the actor’s best efforts on stage leave no trace, evanescent as smoke. Does it rankle with Scofield when he hears himself acting on tape and thinks, no, he would never resort to the same interpretation if he had the chance to play the part again? “It hasn’t mattered,” he replied, “because it seemed right at the time.” It’s not a definitive version of a part that an actor is trying to achieve, he explained, but a version that’s true to his grasp of the part at the moment.

Perhaps for that reason Scofield welcomes occasions to work with a part on the radio, as he did with Othello, before he performs it on stage. “I do radio because I’m asked. . . because it’s there”; and then, less ingenuously, “one of the perks of doing radio is that I get an opportunity to digest a part in a completely different way; I’ve absorbed what it’s all about in a way that I wouldn’t if I was just reading it.” Moreover, for Scofield, radio has still another advantage: it enables an actor to “get inside certain kinds of writing” that otherwise might never be presented.

For reasons that are purely economic, neither stage nor TV can afford to take chances with literary scripts, however worthy, that have limited appeal. When hundreds of thousands of dollars or pounds are at stake in the theater, a half-empty house is unthinkable—bad news even for masters like Strindberg, who’s been described by Michael Meyer, his translator, as “tricky box office.” Television, too, is constrained by a budget that radio’s management would envy. But then a play produced on television generally costs about 30 times as much as the same play on radio—sometimes even more, depending on the technical complexities of filming. Because radio’s cheaper than any other medium, radio’s able to accommodate scripts that may lack mass appeal but that do exhibit literary virtues.

Not that British radio serves caviar on every station day and night. Drama of any sort, highbrow or low, accounts for only 3 percent of BBC’s total programming on four networks—in 1981—82 a mere 943 hours from roughly 29,400 hours of broadcasting. Even Radio 4, the network with the smallest proportion of music (4.5 percent) and the greatest share of talk, devotes hardly more than 10 percent of its broadcasting time to drama, and then features mainly conventional plays that stress character and plot. Innovative drama, designed for a culturally sophisticated audience, is largely the province of Radio 3, which in 1981—82 broadcast only 141 hours of plays. Nonetheless, radio in Britain is correctly perceived not just as the conservator of great works of art, what with its library of classic drama from all countries and periods, but also as the patron, indeed the discoverer, of contemporary talent. The six to ten thousand writers who annually submit original plays to BBC Radio may know that the odds of acceptance are low—somewhere between one in ten and one in 17. Yet they’re no less aware that the odds are manifestly not insuperable, and that Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard are but the most conspicuous of radio’s countless alumni who made good.

*The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the University of Colorado’s Council on Research and Creative Work.


The reputation of radio as a patron of the arts dates from the war years and corroborates the bracing myth that bulldog British mettle makes adversity felicitous. As Douglas Cleverdon, a now retired producer from the Features Department, has observed, “radio drama became the main entertainment of the British public” when bombings and air raids kept people at home. Millions of people—25 million, in fact, at the peak—tuned in through the war to BBC Radio’s Saturday Night Theatre, “the high spot of the drama week,” and, liking what they heard, continued to listen when the theaters once more flourished, even while television jealously was wresting the American public from its own romance with radio. “The intelligentsia before the war had rather despised radio,” recalled Cleverdon not long ago, “but when Louis MacNeice himself was one of the chief figures, that made them think again.”

Poet, playwright, critic, producer, and lecturer, MacNeice joined BBC Radio in 1941 and remained there till his death in 1963, the most eminent, perhaps, of the highly varied company who worked along with Cleverdon in Features. At the one extreme, the department included poets like MacNeice, W. R. Rodgers, and Terence Tiller; at the other, some tough Fleet Street journalists. Together these writers made Features renowned for its diversity as well as for its luminous achievements: MacNeice’s Christopher Columbus, for example, with Sir William Walton’s score and Laurence Olivier in the lead; or Edward Sackville-West and Benjamin Britten’s re-creation of Ulysses’ return from his odyssey; or Dylan Thomas’ radio script of a journey he’d made home to Swansea, produced by Philip Burton, Richard Burton’s foster father, with Thomas himself taking part in the dramatized scenes. In fact, Thomas’ great tour de force—the “Play for Voices,” Under Milk Wood—was a radio play directed by Cleverdon, who, for this among other achievements, was recently given the Gold Award for outstanding contributions to radio.

Features, too, once won its share of honors, including, on numerous occasions, the coveted Prix Italia for excellence in radio programs. Nonetheless, in 1965, in what Cleverdon has called a “shocking act of Philistinism,” BBC Features was dissolved, its experiments in radio absorbed by the Drama Department—an injury compounded by insult, as Drama had once been considered a stodgy country cousin to Features. No one can quite explain why the department was abandoned. Offhandedly, people suggest that the budget for Features was growing too large for the size of its audience— that too many trips were perhaps being made to Budapest, Prague, the south of France, or wherever, for programs that had to be scheduled (or did they?) at just the right season to catch the best weather. More likely, the peculiar stamp of Features was becoming dated, growing by degrees so droll that the recent parody in David Hare’s play Plenty still draws blood:

ANNOUNCER: This is the BBC Third Programme. Vorichef wrote Les Ossifiés in the year of the Paris Commune, but his struggle with Parkinson’s disease during the writing of the score has hitherto made it a peculiarly difficult manuscript for musicologists to interpret. However the leader of the Bremen ensemble has recently done a magnificent work of reclamation. Vorichef died in an extreme state of senile dementia in 1978. This performance of his last work will be followed by a short talk in our series “Musicians and Disease.”

British drama, by contrast, must have seemed downright sassy, jerked awake in the 50’s from its geriatric sleep by the robust young squawls of John Osborne and other Angry Young Men. It was time, one supposes, for the mantle to pass from the poets in Features to the playwrights in Drama. There is justice, no doubt, in Cleverdon’s remark that “radio depends on words, and the best words depend on the poet, because it’s only the poet who can write evocative words.” But when the writers who are lionized are playwrights, not poets, even radio must turn away from poetry toward drama.

Far less pleasing to consider, but compelling nonetheless, is the equally apt possibility that radio also was taking some heed of that vigorous upstart TV. Poetry is not the stuff of television, and television now was all the rage. Radio could no more remain as it was, unresponsive to the public’s growing ardor for TV, than the transplanted Texan Bill Ash, after more than three decades with BBC Radio, including a stint as assistant head of the Script Unit, could retain his Lone Star accent. Transition is what radio required in the 60’s, and what Ash at least implicitly appeared to describe when, at the time of his retirement, he talked about radio drama. Poets in the late 1950’s, he explained, in his mellow hybrid accent, “would lay one band of sound against another, as painters lay bands of color side by side.” But radio drama must have plot as well as theme, must observe the basic axiom that “drama is revolutionary, building up a tension that demands a resolution.” Good radio drama needs an interesting story, an intriguing relationship (“Why does the son address his mother that way?”), and an ease of identification between the audience and the characters—everything, in short, that one gets on TV, though the observation’s mine, not Ash’s.

No coyness is at work here, no dissembling. If Ash and several others interviewed at the BBC declined to say that television spurred a change in radio, they’re right to this extent: radio drama could never have persisted—as indeed in the United States it didn’t—if its writers and directors had obsessively reduced it to a jealous, halting echo of TV. Television may have bred a taste for “action radio,” for rapid-fire scenes and simple plots. It may have also taught radio directors, such as Gerry Jones of BBC (who directs in TV, too, though he calls it “visual Valium”), that when a complicated action is unfolding, “some concession must be made to how difficult it is to move people about.” A line or two of dialogue in film will not create the sense that characters with miles to trek have had the time to reach their destination; so how could it create that sense in radio? “If you direct a radio play,” said Jones, “as though you’re directing a film, it usually works out. If you think visually, always, in radio, if you just imagine the thing, like you’d be shooting your camera shots, it works out right.” Television, then, may well have modified the nature of directing and altered public taste in ways that radio could not ignore. But television hasn’t killed off radio because, at least in Britain, those who choose to work in radio accept the limitations of the medium and prefer to see the images imagination spawns rather than the pictures that a TV screen projects.

Perhaps they wish as well to produce the world’s great classics more frequently than TV would allow. The BBC archives contain radio adaptations of innumerable plays by the masters of drama from the Greeks to the moderns, and still more adaptations lie ahead. “Unless you’re attached to the classical tradition of literature, you’re detached from culture. So radio must plug into the tradition. It’s the only medium that can afford to do all the greats. Otherwise, the world would have scant exposure to the classics.” So did Richard Imison, head of the Radio Script Unit, explain BBC policy, pacing leagues within his modest office, creating a wondrously outsize impression, though in fact his performance is calibrated rightly to his passion for the subject. Having been associated with radio for the length of his career, Imison evidently shares with Douglas Cleverdon a partiality for experimental programs best suited to radio alone—programs that live so completely through sound that a visual display is at best a distraction. What but such a partiality could possibly account for his insistence that “great writers like Chekhov are done as a service, not because a radio adaptation is great radio”? Nonetheless, Imison embraces the radio’s power to assemble great casts at low cost and thereby to mount truly awesome productions of plays that on stage wouldn’t fare half so well.

Costs are low for the audience as well as for the production, since no one’s obliged to buy orchestra tickets or dress to the teeth for a radio play. Imison heartily approves. “It’s entirely inappropriate to have to get dressed up to go to the theater to see a play. The less a play is an occasion, as on radio, the better.” As a consequence, he has stressed that radio must, in addition to broadcasting drama and features, “demonstrate that it’s an entertainment medium of the most unpretentious kind.” Radio is meant to domesticate drama, not only by bringing it into the home but also by granting it no greater right to exist than the lightest of light entertainment.

How peculiarly British a notion. Only the British would think to suggest that daytime serials and situation comedies legitimize programs of a more exalted sort. Yet throughout the BBC, it’s accepted without question, and repeated without gloss, that productions of Shakespeare sublimely performed depend upon equally splendid productions of purely ephemeral trifles. Perhaps it’s thought that the refinement of a work of beaten gold cannot be adequately seen unless the wonder is displayed beside a foil of burnished brass. Perhaps a blighted craftsmanship, if once endured, might grimly spread from projects judged of little worth to those of greater weight. Perhaps an outcry would be raised if the BBC, which takes in fees from licenses for TV sets throughout the British Isles, were narrowly to answer to the tastes of just the learned few. Perhaps, as well, the learned few could not become the learned many if the nation’s culture failed to heed the least of art in concert with the best. Whatever the case, something in the theory leads to enviable practice. In 1983 alone, the BBC could mention in its annual handbook that radio had broad-cast adaptations of plays by Shakespeare, Otway, Schiller, Wilde, and T.S. Eliot, as well as dramatizations of Homer, Stendhal, Dickens, and Hardy, among others.

All this, in addition to the work of contemporary playwrights, who profess to love the medium not just because it frees them from commercial constraints (“the lovely thing about radio,” said one, “is that you don’t have to bother to fill the theater for three weeks”) but also because it protects them from reviews that inhibit invention. Even playwrights with seemingly little to fear—John Mortimer is one—appreciate the right to flounder inconspicuously. Radio, as Mortimer recently noted, is “a frightfully safe way of experimenting. No one writes headlines saying, DISASTROUS RADIO PLAY.”


The fact that radio provides a natural forum for a writer to experiment with forms or themes not certain to be welcomed on the stage explains why playwrights with a record of theatrical successes—those like Edward Albee, David Mamet, Tom Stoppard, David Hare, and Mortimer himself— continue to write for the radio. Still, though radio may guarantee a work the right to fail, which is a powerful protector of the right to succeed, one wonders if the radio, where scenes are taped the same day that they’re first rehearsed, isn’t finally far more risky than the theater, where rehearsals give the playwright time for well-advised rewriting. Not in Mortimer’s experience, which spans the West End and the National Theatre, the pinnacles of commercial and artistic success. “All that business on the stage,” according to Mortimer, “has become a terrible trap. Everyone finds something wrong; panic rises. You’re rewriting constantly”— apparently to no end. “Non-rewriting,” he said flatly, “is an advantage.”

This, from a playwright who clearly revises with a penitential fervor. “There is no substitute,” he has written in the introduction to his volume of Five Plays, “for the long and busy work of the writer, writing words which must be delivered with total accuracy if the whole mood and colour of the play is not to vanish in a well-meaning blur.” No wonder Mortimer appreciates the radio. It’s not only that his dialogue is “literary” and thus especially suited to radio. (“My writing,” he said, “depends on listening; my comedy depends on listening very hard.”) It’s also that in radio the actors read their lines from scripts, and so don’t tend to introduce unauthorized revisions of the words they are to speak. “Actors do a lot of rewriting in television, actors in television series, for instance,” observed Mortimer, whose Rumpole of the Bailey has been viewed and admired on both sides of the Atlantic, as has his television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. “Films,” he remarked, “are the worst.” But even in the theater, as he hastened to add, “actors are too lazy to learn the words very often; they give only an approximation.”

Precision is quite naturally what every playwright longs for—and most directors, too. But in addition, it’s the iridescent colors in the fabric of good dialogue that radio directors must perceive and then make manifest to others. For what the ear at last must capture are words delivered feelingly, words sonorous and resonant as song. “At its best,” said director Michael Bartlett not long before he moved from BBC, although he still directs in radio, “a radio play is orchestrated; it works like a piece of music, it is shaped like a piece of music, it’s actually composed like a piece of music. You don’t toss your lines off; you choose your words and you build— you build very carefully.” Another director, Martin Jenkins, made a similar comparison: “A radio director in a sense is nearest to a conductor working with a score because the impact of a performance is based really on the changes of pitch, the changes of tempo, the use of pause, the quiet phases, the pp, the ff, all of that.” To wring the music out of dialogue, to heighten one’s awareness of a text as sound aloft on air, not letters fixed upon a page, is the radio director’s art, his reason for travailing in the medium.

And travail is what he does, for he must exercise tenacious concentration and intelligence to tape a play in just four days, with actors who have had no time to grow into their parts through long rehearsals. It’s the director who must shape the play, discovering its tensions and its climaxes, and modulating every scene’s intensity, so that scenes of equal power aren’t juxtaposed and thereby undercut. The task of modulation is particularly difficult, since plays are seldom taped straight through, but rather scene by scene—the most efficient way for all the technical requirements of stereo recording, with background music, sound effects, and overlays of sound, to be accomplished. The director, then, must keep in mind how yesterday’s recording session sounded, in order to maintain its continuity with scenes that he’s arranged to tape today.

Rehearse-recording is what the method’s called, and it enables a director to refine a scene until it is the best that it can be, and then to catch it, like a photograph, on tape. Later, when the recording session’s over and the editing has begun, the director can refine the soundtrack further, adding background noise and music, splicing different bits of different takes together, changing tempo in a scene that drags or races—sometimes altering a production so completely, if he wishes (though it’s difficult to do), that little of the sound and sense, as first recorded, still remains. Of course, not all directors edit with a keen creative zeal. Some prefer to layer sound, so far as possible, at the time of the recording, so that scenes, when they are edited, are not much changed at all. But in either case, what issues from the editing channel is not what would be heard if hidden microphones had eavesdropped on a living stage production, but a scrupulous redaction, at once static and ideal.

No one quibbles with this concept of a radio play, as some critics, for example, scorned the pianist Glenn Gould, who would satisfy his passion for perfection by taping countless version of a Bach invention, say, and then creating a recording from the finest bits spliced seamlessly together. “The product is ersatz, down to the last disk,” wrote Donal Henahan, soon after Gould’s untimely death. “It is not a musical performance so much as Gould’s idealized vision of himself as an artist, engraved in vinyl, a dream of how he would like to have played.” Now, a radio play is, for just the same reason, an idealized dream; but since drama, unlike music, takes its lifeblood from illusion, any technical feat that can magnify the magic is welcomed. A radio play is supposed to be crafted, “finished” as plays never are on the stage.

It’s a difference that both fascinates and frustrates directors. On the one hand, the labor of refining a production holds the promise of perfection; when the casting is right, the recording adept, and the editing skilled, a radio play is consummate verbal art. But consummation, on the other hand, suspends the thrill of danger that pervades a crowded theater when an audience, alive to spontaneity, reacts to living actors on the stage. “The one thing that all radio directors feel,” according to Martin Jenkins, who does stage as well as radio and takes delight in both, “is a degree of impotence because they do not know what their audience actually feel, there and then, whereas a theater director knows right from the word “bang.” That’s why, in fact, theater directors get the runs before the curtain goes up, because the whole thing is exposed. They haven’t edited it. They have tightened it and shaped it; but they haven’t got and never will have a finished performance, because it’s a growing thing, it’s always going on. Whereas our thing—that’s it, it’s done.” Regret and triumph mingle in the final word, for after all, it’s challenging to grapple with an audience, and what is “done” without them cannot ever be revamped to suit their taste. But neither can it ever be diminished.

Radio, in any case, plays to individuals and not to groups, however large its audience. From his years in the Radio Script Unit, Bill Ash has come to believe, above all, in the medium’s personal appeal. “Radio is not a collective experience,” he has said; “it is unique and individual, whereas in a visual medium, everything that can be seen is a shared experience.” By way of proof, he noted that when a radio listener is distracted from a play, the imaginative world that he’s constructed is dismantled and must later be rebuilt. Television viewers, by contrast, may turn from the screen but, whenever they’re ready, they reenter a world that remains as it was, undisturbed by their lapse in attention.

Though Ash didn’t use the word “modern” in speaking of radio, his emphasis on individuality must have signified modernity, given a culture that motivates people to do their own thing. In his notion that radio paints a surrealistic world, where nothing that’s imagined is impossible; in his contention that listeners participate in radio, by half-creating drama through their power to envision what’s suggested; even in his observation that radio has fostered women playwrights where the stage has clearly not, Ash suggested that radio is modern. Yet who but those at the BBC would think so?

In fact, the BBC itself seems undecided whether radio drama is a proud, but timeworn, dinosaur it’s keeping from the grave, or a greyhound it’s restraining on a leash. “It’s still the 1930’s in the radio, as opposed to television, in the subjects you can tackle and the way that you can tackle them,” asserted one director, seconded by others. Radio in Britain doesn’t often deal overtly with violence or with sex, doesn’t broadcast many plays about minorities, doesn’t tolerate profanity, as stipulated archly in a memo from a censor gone awry: “All fucks and cunts must be referred directly to me.” Such zealousness aside, it is commonly argued that radio offends the sensibilities more easily than any other medium, if only because its appeal is confined to one sense, so that controversial language or material stands out and therefore shocks. Hence, contend some, the medium has to be censored. By the same rationale one might argue, however, that controversial drama is especially appropriate to radio, which alone can assure that the audience won’t miss what is said.

Whether radio drama will assert its modern features or come to be passé will depend, in the future, on the quality and daring of the BBC’s editorial decisions—and on the excellence of contemporary scripts. In the meantime, the waiting world (which hardly knows it’s waiting) might consider the merits of radio drama and conclude with Gerry Jones that “it’s funny we’re the only country left doing it,” at least on such a scale. Funny indeed, since sporadic attempts to revivfy radio drama in the modern-minded United States suggest, despite their mixed success, that there’s life in the old darling yet. Neither virtually extinct as some propose, nor vigorous and young as others wish, radio drama has, nevertheless, a voice that’s fit to sound beyond the well-thatched roofs of England, drawing note from even those who’d thought its old enchantment dead.


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