THE DISTANCE BETWEEN... 2004
15 Nov 2004; R4 Afternoon Play. An interesting first radio play by "double act" Charlotte Goodwin
and Pamela Wells. On the day of recording, a writer finds his radio
play in the hands of a producer who hasn't had time to read it. As the studio
actors go through the drama, the writer obsesses over his female
protagonist, blurring the line between fact and fiction. With Andy
Hockley as the writer, Julia Hills as the producer, Polly
Lister as the actress and Jez Thomas as the actor. Produced by
Kate Chapman and Jenny Stephens.
I think the producers had some fun in making this
Some interesting comments appeared about this play on the BBC
R4 messageboard. I hope the BBC, and Jay Bretton, do not object to this edited,
shortened version appearing here. The exchange is interesting and worth
preserving. (Jay / BBC ... if you do object, please
email me and I'll remove it. I do not know
how to contact you)
...first comment from the messageboard..
This was an unusual idea for a play, and I was reminded of it when I heard Jane
Morgan introducing a play on BBC7 and saying that one of the cast hadn't been
told the date of the job so was replaced by another actress at the last moment.
The play, a nature-of-relationship number, didn't seem to suffer."
Jay Bretton (a radio play writer) added the following
comments: ....The idea of the Radio Play From Hell worked for me, but
the "Life" bit that was meant to contrast with the "Art" was too arty to be
lifelike. ..and this is not the way radio plays are recorded. The control room
also features a crew of highly trained people (absent from this production),
and everyone is thoroughly professional. Actors especially are no trouble and
like each other. Writers are happy to have their work reinterpreted. There is
plenty of time to get it right.
Another visitor to the messageboard: ..I loved the character
of the director, getting everything wrong; most amusing. I'm sure they could
expand on that idea for another play.
Jay Bretton again :....The part about the
technical crew was true. They are wonderful people, superbly professional and
great fun....and the PA's do so much more than write timings down on a sheet.
The reality of budgets and studio time means you have two
days to record a R4 play of 44 or 57 minutes, starting at around 10 or 11 in
the morning with a full read-through and then normally taking each 'scene'
(radio plays don't have them, but nobody can think of a better word for
a 'take') in story sequence unless there is some double-voiced narration,
schitzoid inner monlogue or same actor playing two parts, or whatever, to be
added at post-production, into the evening until you finish.
After my first radioplay was produced by the BBC, my local writers group put me up on a podium with a Giles Cooper
(forerunner of the Sonys) award winner from the early 60s, who was horrified
when I explained 'rehearse and record' to her. In her day, when the basement
drama studios at BH were free of the rumble of the Victoria Line trains that
eventually drove radio drama up into the attic, they would get one or even two
full rehearsal days before recording. Not any more. (*This was before the
days of digital sound editing. It must be easier and quicker now to piece together a
perfect recording - N.D.)
So there are problems: Pushy writers who don't like the
producer's interpretation (not me, I think of it as a baton relay.) Leading
actors who turn out not to have the right chemistry together and who might not
have read the script before coming to the recording. Eccentric producers like
the one suffered by Richard Dreyfuss in "The Goodbye Girl" who wanted a gay
Richard III. It must all happen.
But to return to the original play, Woody Allen dealt with
the point about writers writing their own lives into their work and reinventing
it in about a minute and a half at the end of "Annie Hall", and it's never been
Compiled by Nigel Deacon, Diversity website.
My Top 10 Radio Plays
By Nigel Cropper
1. Mischief by Ben Travers.
This must be one of the most perfect radio plays ever broadcast. The cast was wonderful, headed by Freddie Jones as the irascible, possessive husband. The specially composed music oozed 1920s atmosphere - I was singing it for months afterwards. I think it won a Sony award.
2. Crisp and even brightly By Alec Rowe.
A witty treatment of the Good King at Wenceslas last story,
complete with Slavnik spies who are masters of improbable
disguise, a page called Mark who has to accompany Wenceslas
on a pointless expedition of thoroughly disingenuous goodwill
to try to prop up his popularity ratings, and a hermit called
Kermit. Timothy West as Wenceslas heads a fine cast. Incidentally,
when I produced this play at Bolton School, Alec Rowe not only
came to see it but actually scripted a new scene for it. I have
both his stage script and the original programme as broadcast.
3. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.
Actually, I loved all of John Tydeman's Chandler adaptations,
but this is my favourite of the Philip Marlowe books, and Ed
Bishop captures his character splendidly.
4. The village fete by Peter Tinniswood
This plague was the precursor or of the various Winston
serials and revolved around the talented, sexy, but uncouth
Winston Hayballs - played by the in comparable Bill Wallace -
and his relationships with the members of a dysfunctional
family held together (just about) by elder daughter Nancy,
after they moved from London to a ramshackle house in the country.
5 Appleby's End by Michael Innes (J. I. M. Stewart)
This is Innes at his whimsical best: his hero, chief -
Inspector Appleby, finds himself entangled with the many members
of an artistic family, the Ravens, in a part of England known as
Dream country. A series of deaths occurs, bearing similarities to
short stories by gothic horror writer Edward Raven, and Apperley
falls in love. I think it was the gentle presence of John le
Mesurier as the current head of the Raven family that made this
6. 40 years on by Alan Bennett.
I heard this when it was first broadcast and still revel in
its edgy humour today. My favourite sequence is the account on
Bloomsbury life with Virginia Woolf - "I was a frequent visitor
to her Sunday morning soirees, for I was distantly related to
the Woolf family through some Alsatian cousins" and "Hemingway
had remarked to her "when I reach for my gun, I hear the word
culture"". Actually, it's dreadfully uneven, but with a cast
including Gielgud and Bennett himself, it made for wonderful
7. Unman, Wittering and Zigo by Giles Cooper.
When I first started teaching English, we had a textbook
which included the first classroom scene from this play. I had
never heard of it, and at that stage it was out of print, but I
managed to get a copy through Inter - library loans, and
subsequently produced it. A colleague then lent me a tape of the
original 1958 broadcast, albeit in poor sound, having been
"miked" from the medium wave. Later, all that changed, for in
1986 it was rebroadcast and about a year later, it was
republished. I regularly read it with classes
and have produced it twice since.
8. Who, me? By Michael Davies
I love a good thriller, and this play, concerning
environmental pollution and the dumping of illegal chemicals
at sea, held me from beginning to end.
9. Barnstaple by James Saunders.
This half-hour offering from a theatre of the absurd series
on Radio 3 is a gem - I just wish my tape had better sound
quality. Variation on fiddling while Rome burns - three
characters go on talking whilst their house falls down around
them. Again the wonderful Gwen Watford starred.
10. One of our aircraft is missing by
Another excellent thriller stemming from the discovery of a
crashed Spitfire in East Anglia, and the gradual uncovering
of the highly secret and highly illegal mission it was
engaged in. The ending is reminiscent of the film "defence of the realm", but it was a well-constructed play.
There are many others. Any list of 10 is
arbitrary. Had not someone else listed them, I might well
have included "Miss Hargreaves" or "the dog it was that died".
I never tire of the splendid Ian Carmichael Lord Peter Wimsey
recordings nor of the Clive Merrison Sherlock Holmes.
There are other dramatisations I love: the Brother Cadfael
series, the V I Warshawsky serious starring Kathleen Turner,
the early 1970s Forsyte Saga. Other much - feted productions
leave me cold. Whilst John Moffatt is superb as Hercule Poirot,
Agatha Christie's plots irritate me - probably unreasonably.
I've always found her work to be quite unreadable. I really
don't enjoy the P G Wodehouse dramatisations with Richard Briers
as Wooster and Michael Horden as Jeeves - both seemed miscast to
me. I grew up with the TV series starring Ian Carmichael and
Dennis Price, who seemed to be so much better suited to the
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