Gift, my current radio drama, has been getting some delightful responses from friends & acquaintances, and also from the powers than be at the BBC. It’s still available on iPlayer for another day or so, so this is the last chance to hear it.
Radio is a strange old fashioned medium that seems to have leaped into the digital age with one bound; because you can now listen to plays on your computer, or your mobile phone or whatever iGadget you happen to own. And there’s something very comforting about drama that depends just on voices; if it hadn’t been invented, someone would invent it round about now.
It’s still the Cinderella medium however. TV honchos turn up their noses at radio dramatists; and it’s rare for the front page of the Radio Times to be devoted to a radio programme, rather than a TV show. The good news is that radio is still a place where the dramatist’s voice is still treated with respect. On TV, there are fewer and fewer outlooks for quirky maverick voices creating original stuff – the Pennies From Heaven/Edge of Darkness/Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment kind of weirdness. But radio drama thrives on originality, and vision, and passion.
I’m about to start work on a new radio drama (er, already missed one deadline so I really HAVE to start) which is a sequel to my art fraud drama THE ART OF DECEPTION starring David Schofield and Indira Varma. This ’further adventures of’ piece is a five part serial about a devious art forger and his various nemeses; it’s the kind of piece I’ve been wanting to write ever since I saw Stanley Donen’s CHARADE.
After that, it looks as if (provided the budget is approved) I’ll be writing a 3-part radio drama about war games, for transmission in 2012/13 (yes, that’s years away, but radio execs like to schedule ahead!) This is no less than a mega state of the nation project about the decisions that go into the fighting of wars; it’s inspired by seeing how THE WEST WING handles major setpiece action sequence ie entirely through dialogue.
I love TV and am keen to do more week in that medium at some point; and my film projects are simmering away nicely. But it’s my radio plays that give me a chance to do things that are different, and contemporary, and politically challenging.
And I’m looking forward to the day when the BBC finally (finally!) gets its act together and puts the radio archive on line as a permanent resource. In fact, they could start to do it now, if they were smart enough to embrace an open source strategy – let writers put their own plays on their own websites! But that’s never going to happen, so unless you embrace the illegal download approach (hardly illegal if you pay your licence fee!) then there’ll be a long wait before radio dramas start to emerge from dusty closets and take on a new life again.
Even out of print books can be bought second hand; but most radio plays, once transmitted, just vanish; which is a real shame. And I’d truly love to see my previous plays get a further life – such as GIN AND RUM, my first play, a ghost story set on a roof; my wild adaptation of Spenser’s fantasy epic poem THE FAERIE QUEENE; or my ‘cleverer than Sherlock Holmes’ detective drama about Isaac Newton, THE KING’S COINER.
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