I recall times curled up with my granddad on his lap listening to The Archers on BBC Radio 4. Though as I grew up I found myself switching off from radio dramas and instead choosing to bash my ear drums with more music based listening. Sure, when I went home to visit the grandparents we went back to listening to the radio and the rich tones of actors vocalising the world of The Archers. I will admit The Archers holds only nostalgic memoires for me and I never listen any other time.
This made me ponder…What is the future of radio drama? Surely I am not the only one to be reluctant to tune in…
I managed to track down one lady who works on radio dramas: Clare Corbet to help me out. Having studied Drama at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Clare moved to London where she now resides working as an actress. As well as working on numerous television and theatre productions this talented beauty has worked on over 200 radio plays. Perfect person to ask about radio dramas then!
How did you get into radio work?
I got into doing radio plays by being part of a competition from drama school. Each accredited school puts forward 6 people and those actors audition for a day at the BBC in London and the prize is a 6 month bursary award on the BBC Radio Rep. The competition is called ‘Carleton Hobbs’ competition. Look it up! So I was fortunate to win and then I began working on many many plays for Radio 4.
My most memorable moment was performing in front of a live studio audience at the BBC radio theatre (Portland Place) in an episode of Absolute Power starring Stephen Fry and John Bird. It was Christmas Eve and I was waiting behind the screen with the other actors and they called our names out one by one and the audience applauded as we emerged – I couldn’t believe that I was working with such amazing people and my name was in the same sentence as theirs!!!
How has radio drama changed in the time you have been working?
So what has changed? Well the Archers as you know is still running, recording in Birmingham and we still have some amazing new writers coming through. Toby Swift is a producer that I admire greatly as he is a great advocate for new writing in Radio. He is also an amazing producer. BBC Radio 4 also keeps using incredible acting talent alongside the talent they already have in the radio drama company – Rebecca Wilmshurst keeps this all running smoothly!
With plays such as The Archers having such longevity, what is it that continually makes it appeal to modern audiences?
I believe that most of my age group (30) who listen to the Archers were probably introduced to it by their parents and there is a kind of comfort in the familiarity of it – I may be wrong.
Do you think there is a future for radio plays?
You ask about the future of radio and this is very current news at the moment as there is less money in the radio budgets and a lot of freelance companies have had to stop making radio programmes as their plays were not being commissioned. I really hope this is not the beginning of the end…we have already seen the World Service collapse which is such a sad and devastating thing to happen for a lot of people.
I think Radio 4 does try to push the boundaries a lot more with the types of plays it puts out but there are quite a few barriers to this (certain types of swear words are monitored).But I think they strike a good balance. It is very hard to reach young people (16-26) as they don’t spend time listening to stories and plays as much as the older population…
So what is on offer out there?
Radio 4 is your best bet for modern day offerings. Not just plays though, there are documentaries and interview.
But for those with tastes for the more old school listening here are some absolute gems that I found!
The Flying Saucers -Goold old Sci-Fi!
Keeping His Promise – From the BBC World Service series ‘Tales of the Supernatural’.
Baby Snooks Visits The Bumsteads – an old fashioned feel good comedy play.
Monster of Dumphrey – Batman episode from 1950.