BBC Radio Drama in 1946


From The Birmingham Post , 22 March, 1946. Article located by Roger Bickerton.

" 'Saturday Night Theatre' has rather more than trebled the audience with which it started its career in April, 1943, and 'World Theatre', introduced last October, has already doubled its audience. These Listener Research statistics about the rising popularity of the radio play are amply borne out by personal observations. Criticisms of the plays are commonly heard in trains and buses and in places of assembly, and the fact that plays must be given undivided attention is obviously influencing the pattern of domestic routine. In these circumstances, the problems of listener convenience should have close attention from the programme planners. The system of fixed times for particular types of programmes should be extended, and every effort made to give multiple performances of all important productions, so that listeners may more easily fit them in. The question of the best length of radio productions should be reviewed periodically, for in my experience the BBC estimate of listener capacity is too low. Most listeners would like listening sessions that are long enough to be worth planning for. Furthermore, as soon as the paper restrictions are relaxed, the printed word should be used to supplement the microphone and to fill in as much as possible the visual impressions that are lacking in a radio production.

In a pamphlet just issued by the Drama Department in support of the series "World Theatre", Mr. Lionel Hale sets down very explicitly the visible splendours lost in radio production, and gives some advice as to how these losses may be compensated. Briefly, he suggests that the listener must work hard to make for himself the scene of his imagination. He must be half audience and half actor. To that good advice there are added some admirable programme notes on the projected productions in the series that will, no doubt, help towards a listener reaction that is just as important in a broadcast performance as in a theatre. The pamphlet gives a list of the plays to be broadcast in the series and the dates of their performance. The issue of this pamphlet should create a precedent for all future drama series. It is important for the listener to be able to plan ahead, and the BBC should see that he is given every facility to do so. There is no need for the lavish format adopted for the "World Theatre" pamphlet just issued, attractive though it is. A really comprehensive pamphlet, with all projected productions, with dates and times, and graphic illustrations (not merely pictures of playwrights) would be a great help in "piecing out" the imperfections of blind listening."

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