A radio play, like a game of Chinese Whispers, is a cooperative act, and one involving a degree of intimacy on the part of the players. Words and sounds set us creating a picture in our minds.
You start looking for radio scripts – and all roads lead to Penguin New Writing 11, which is all very well but…
The truth is, there are zillions of radio scripts out there, you just have to know where to look.
In the eighties things were slightly simpler because we had Methuen’s invaluable “Best Radio Plays of…” series, which ran from 1978 to 1989 and gave us the winners of that year’s Giles Cooper Awards for BBC radio drama.
Cooper is a thesis subject unto himself. It is a disgrace that he is not venerated alongside his peers – and in radio drama terms I put him on a par with no less a luminary than Samuel Beckett. So far as the awards go, what matters is that Cooper died young. He was 48 when he fell from a train passing through Surbiton in December 1966.
To start at the end, which is a very Cooperish thing to do, what we have here are the last award winners before John Birt wielded the axe.
The Baby Buggy by Elizabeth Baines, Afternoon Play 16/8/89, producer Susan Hogg.
O Ananias, Azarias and Misael by Jennifer Johnston, Thirty Minute Theatre, producer Jeremy Howe.
The Stalin Sonata by David Zane Mairowitz, Drama Now (R3) 1/8/89, producer Richard Wortley.
Eating Words by Richard Nelson, from the Globe Theatre Season on Radio 4 and the World Service, 30/10/89, producer Ned Chaillet.
By Where the Old Shed Used to Be by Craig Warner, Drama Now 12/12/89, produced by Andy Jordan.
(The advantage of the hardback edition is you get pix of the writers on the back.)
Overall, the collection shows some falling off from previous editions. There is something very 1980s and dated about Eating Words and especially By Where the Old Shed Used to Be. The Johnston monologue, on the other hand, was contemporary in 1989 – life in Northern Ireland after 20 years of the Troubles – but transcends its era because it is about character. The Baby Buggy could be broadcast today. We would be lucky to get a play as well written as The Stalin Sonata nowadays. Continue reading “Review – Best Radio Plays of 1989”