Alan Stafford Radio Plays

28 Sep 09. Alan Stafford's play about the life of Gerard Hoffnung, the well-known musical cartoonist and humorist, raconteur, tuba player, 'One Minute Please' participant and organiser of three of the most extraordinary concerts ever to take place at the Royal Festival Hall. Matt Lucas as Hoffnung, with Gina McKee, Stephen Boswell, Nicholas Jones, Jon Glover, Hugh Bonneville, Felicity Montague, and a guest appearance by Annetta Hoffnung. The play marks the 50th anniversary of Hoffnung's death. Producer Adam Bromley; director Lissa Evans.

    Adam Bromley adds:

    Matt Lucas peforms all the Hoffnung you hear, including the famous bricklayer routine. We've used the original archive for timing and the laughter, but it's Matt's voice.

    We recorded it line by line, using the original as reference; I have to say that in the studio, on high quality monitor speakers, it was almost impossible to differentiate Matt from Hoffnung. Uncanny. (I can second this - I thought the 'bricklayer' material was taken from an old Hoffnung recording - Ed)

    We put some selective EQ and processing on voice on the Bricklayer material to make it sit with the texture of the laughter and atmos from the archive recording. This makes it feel different to the rest of the show.

    The real Annetta Hoffnung appeared at the very end of the play, doing the closing speech. Alan Stafford, the writer, met with her many times and we had her support throughout the production.

    She was with us in studio for a morning and she had a lovely time. Over lunch, she told us more about Hoffnung and it was heartbreaking to hear how young and how suddenly Gerard died. He was a true original.

18 Sep 08. Not a drama, but an interesting feature programme, compiled by Alan Stafford, about an almost-unknown script writer for "Round the Horne". Mollie Millest began sending gags and sketches to Kenneth Horne when she was only fourteen, and they were of such high quality, he started using them in "Beyond our Ken".

Mollie supplied scripts for many years, but was content to remain in the background, becoming a respected member of the Salvation Army. She was never mentioned in the credits until she wrote a nostalgic look back at "Band Waggon", for Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch, where she was sole scripwriter, broadcast in about 1972. She also wrote for Dick Emery.

This tribute to Mollie was scripted by Alan Stafford and presented by Bernard Cribbins, with the assistance of Bill Pertwee and Kenneth Horne soundalike Jonathan Rigby, who catches all Kenneth's mannerisms perfectly. It was produced by Stephen Garner.

    Update .....An unknown script by Mollie Millest and Kenneth Horne was discovered on eBay by Wes Butters in 2005. It was from 1966 and had never been broadcast. The BBC arranged for it to be delivered by Robin Sebastian and Jonathan Rigby (as Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Horne) in a programme entitled TWICE KEN IS PLENTY (R4, 1130, 1 Sept 09) in front of an audience at the BBC Radio Theatre. See REVIEWS 09 for more information.

15 May 07. R4, 1415. A reconstruction of the first performance of an English opera, Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, at a girls' boarding school in Chelsea in 1689. Why did one of England's most popular composers choose to write his greatest masterpiece for a girl’s school rather than the professional theatre? Stars Robert Glenister, Chloe Annett, Robert Duncan, Nichola McAuliffe. Director Dirk Maggs. Production by “Above the Title” Productions. Recorded at Studio 3, The Soundhouse Ltd, London.

”Dido” was the first English opera ever to have been written or staged. This fast-moving Restoration romp takes an educated guess at why one of England’s best-loved composers chose to write it for amateur performance.

For one girl in particular, the arrival of the charismatic Mr. Purcell will change her life forever. As the date of the open-air show draws near, many of the girls’ parents are deeply unhappy with the idea of their daughters behaving like common actresses. Surely a woman’s place is in the home?

Musical details – the play uses music from “Dido”, and other instrumental pieces by Purcell. Vocal music was all recorded for the production. Singers: Naoko Mori, Catherine Shepherd, Saskia Butler, Robert Duncan; Chorus: Capella Nova conducted by Lindsay Blay. Keyboard: Alan Stafford; cello – Katherine Joyce.

ALAN STAFFORD comments: This is my first venture into period comedy - so it was quite a surprise to see all the female actors tying long skirts around their jeans, so that the mike would pick up the swish of material as they moved.

In my previous play with Dirk (All Fingers and Thumbs) I sat in the control box, while Dirk was in the studio with the actors. This time round I was promoted to a seat in the studio, making it easier to add my own suggestions, which Dirk very generously allowed me to do. It's a fabulous cast and I really admire how they threw themselves into the singing. Naoko has experience in musicals, and Robert Duncan had briefly sung as King Rat in panto. All the same, the music was far from straightforward, but they got it brilliantly - with the help of a strategically placed rear-view mirror, which allowed them to face the mike, while glancing at me on the keyboard for their cue.

Dirk was very quick at picking up anything that wasn't clear in the script, which we quickly amended with the minimum of rewriting. There are numerous shifts of location and snippets of music, which is a lot to pack into 45 minutes. Plus we brought in a 21 strong girls' choir.

Some male writers find it difficult to write for women. I enjoy it - and no-one so far has told me I'm awful at it. My previous play had more females than males - and this one, if you include all the musicians, has 28 women and 4 men.

Henry Purcell: Robert Glenister
Charlotte: Naoko Mori
Josias Priest: Robert Duncan
Mrs. Priest: Nicola McAuliffe,
Mrs. Purcell: Chloe Annett
Jenny: Catherinie Shepherd
Molly: Saskia Butler
Charlotte's father: Brian Bowles.

SMs: Recording Engineer Gerry O'Riordan, Spot: Alison MacKenzie, Production Assistant Rebecca Pinfold.

Some information reproduced by permission of Alan Stafford, some is from the Radio Times, and some is taken from the excellent Dirk Maggs website (again with Alan’s permission) run by David Williams.

All Fingers and Thumbs....2004
Afternoon Play, R4, 1415, 29 Dec 04. By Alan Stafford A romantic comedy about communication. Sign language interpreter Marie wants more deaf people to enjoy the theatre. So does director Tom - but not if it involves a bothersome spot-lit woman waving her arms about on his stage.

Clive/Jamie/Gordon ...... Brian Bowles
Tom ..... Bill Nighy
Helen ...... Felicity Montagu
Marie ...... Susannah Doyle
Sal ...... Jenny Eclair
Michael ...... Steve Day
Paula ...... Fifi Garfield

Directed by Dirk Maggs.

Alan Stafford adds .........I'm a believer in tight dialogue, subtext and plenty of scope for the actor's contribution to the part.

ND adds ... humorous, well-written; very "visual" in the images it conjures up.

18 Sep 82. R4, 14.05.

Hey presto! Neville and Angela join forces again to present their magic show at the firm's talent contest. But ... abracadabra ... the rabbit in the hat is not the only thing that is revealed.

Neville ... Rodney Bewes
Angela ... Polly James
Simon ... Crawford Logan
Jean ... Miranda Forbes
Liz ... Mary Cornford

Director ... Michael Bartlett

Alan Stafford: ............Dirty Tricks was the first radio play I ever wrote. I'd recently seen a production of Pinter's "The Birthday Party", which taught me that what a character left unsaid was every bit as important as what they did say. Even so, my script was far too long for a half-hour slot - and, on recording day, I spent the lunch hour in director Michael Bartlett's office, cutting out every last bit of superfluous dialogue.

One of the studio managers was Bert Coules (of Sherlock Holmes fame) who, I believe, was in the Magic Circle. He was a huge help with the spot effects, which included sliding steel plates into a magic cabinet - and flicking a pack of cards across the studio.

compiled by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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