My PhD is in radio drama. Here is the Introduction:
Radio played an important but undervalued role in the development of 20th century drama. The BBC was first in the field in 1924 and, with the technological advance of Dramatic Control Panel, quickly created a wholly radiogenic form far more experimental than contemporary theatre or film. The age of experiment was over by 1930 and, though the secondary forms of dramatisation and adaptation came into their own, the single radio play became increasingly theatrical and ultimately unsatisfactory in a sound-only medium. The 1950s, however, saw the rebirth of the radiogenic radio play, not only on the minority Third Programme but across all channels, with radio for the first time nurturing the talents that would go on to achieve eminence in theatre and television. The resultant paradigm of high dramatic art combined with straightforward narrative entertainment, produced in bulk, enabled BBC radio drama to resist the challenge of television and continues, broadly, to the present day.
Whilst other recent studies have revisited the early history of BBC radio drama, this thesis sets out to reassess the entire development of the BBC model from 1924 to the last “event” radio drama, John Arden’s Pearl, in 1978. Consideration is given to significant radio drama landmarks in other countries, primarily those national broadcasters that followed the BBC model. The revised historical narrative is illustrated with case studies of plays chosen to demonstrate the step-change under discussion but also to indicate the quality of dramatic literature that has been “lost” in this under-researched field. The BBC Written Archives have yielded a considerable amount of material that has not previously been discussed. Similarly, recorded radio plays from the National Sound Archive are considered as a research tool.
The thesis concludes with a detailed survey of BBC radio drama in 2006 comparing this with a sample of the output of the BBC’s main rivals in the field and considers (with input from the current Head of Radio Drama) the condition of the contemporary BBC product and the challenges it faces in its ninth decade.
Radio Drama at the Crossroads, De Montfort University, 2008
In this section of the site I will be posting occasional reviews, comments and papers on the subject of radio drama which, almost a decade on from my thesis, remains the neglected orphan child of broadcast drama.
The papers that appear here are original research on my behalf, properly referenced. The conclusions are my own, except where indicated, based on my experience as actor, radio dramatist, and drama academic. Students of the form are welcome to use my material, but please do the decent thing and reference me appropriately.