Working with Glyn Dearman
by Ken Cumberlidge

I remember Glyn very well. In the 1980s I was an actor, and from 1987-89 a member of the BBC Radio Drama Co (RDC). During that period I worked on a number of Glyn Dearman productions. From an actor's perspective, the keynotes of Glyn's character were his consummate professionalism and businesslike manner. While a serious artist and totally dedicated to the craft of Radio Drama, he never lost sight of the practicalities of the job in hand and, being an ex-actor himself, he always considered the needs of his cast. Consequently, with Glyn at the helm you could always guarantee that, no matter how technically complex a drama you might be working on, the production would stick to its recording schedule, be finished on time ...and everybody would get proper tea-breaks!

To be fair, while few matched Glyn's standards of efficiency, most BBC drama producers were pretty good in this respect. There were a notorious few, though (who shall remain nameless) who infuriated us RDC regulars with their vague, head-in-the-clouds, 'artsy' approach: typically calling the whole cast at the start of every day, just to leave most of us stranded for hours in the green room with no idea when we might be needed, while they did take after take of one scene, trying to get a sound effect right. You got none of that nonsense with Glyn. His actors would be called only as required, and the call schedule was always arranged to make the most efficient use of everyone's time. ...And God help the actor who wasn't ready in the green room when expected: with Glyn, an 11.45 call meant you'd be rehearsed, on mic and going for a take by 11.50 !

Of course, there was a flipside to this approach: one that we weren't so keen on. In a recording environment, actors will always tend to be dissatisfied with the take they've just done. We're convinced that if we could just have one more shot at that scene, this time we'd 'crack it'. Glyn never paid any heed to that sort of thing, and quite right too. He knew that if he indulged one actor's insecurities we'd all be at it, and the schedule would go out of the window. In a Glyn Dearman production, unless there were really knotty technical problems, scenes rarely went beyond two or three takes. Indeed, he occasionally took us by surprise, secretly keeping the tape machines running during a final pre-take rehearsal. Clever, that: he knew that the best performances often come before the big red "Recording' light comes on. RDC members were used to this brisk approach. Visiting 'star' names were often left floundering: there they'd be, stood at the mic, working themselves up for the 'proper' take, only to hear Glyn on talkback: "That was lovely, everybody: very nice. Scene 34 next. Onwards and upwards!"

To get a flavour of what it was like to work with Glyn, you could do no better than watch a copy of Stewart Parker's 1985 TV play "Radio Pictures". Drawn from Parker's own experience of writing for radio and shot in a real radio drama studio, its evocation of the atmosphere and its lampooning portrayal of standard BBC working practices is devastatingly accurate. Even more devastating, though, is Geoffrey Palmer's performance as the drama producer "Glyn Bryce". It is a perfect, note-for-note, gesture-for gesture caricature of Glyn Dearman! How they got away with it, I'll never know. I can't imagine what Glyn must have thought of it himself. All his little foibles and attributes are there: the blazer, worn over a pastel-coloured v-neck...the thinning, slightly bouffanted hair swept over the bald spot...the ever-present bag of sweeties at his side...the brisk, businesslike manner. It's HIM!

Well, almost. Bear in mind that I said 'caricature'. The real Glyn Dearman was a much warmer and more positive human being than the rather offhand, callous character in Parker's play might lead you to believe. In studio, Glyn was The Boss: you didn't mess him around, and you didn't want to. You wanted to do your best for him because you knew he was doing his best for the production as a whole - and you can't ask better than that, can you ?

Ken Cumberlidge

Many thanks, Ken, for taking the trouble to write this for us. .................. (Readers may be interested to know that Ken starred in many plays during the 80s and 90s by Paul Thain, Hattie Naylor, James Saunders, John Spurling, Michael Butt, Steve May, Steve Walker and others)..........N.D.

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