The more I work in the medium of radio – sound – audio, the more I realise how perfect a platform it is. As part of the process, I’ve been listening to a lot of radio plays, the good, the bad and the indifferent. Both drama and comedy work very well in a purely audio setting. Far from being a dead medium or for that matter, even a dying one, radio is likely to go on and on. The reason for this is that budgets which have a tendency of spiralling out of control in film and TV are far more relaxed when it comes to radio production. Less is spent on making a radio program and so much more can be used to procure good calibre cast members. Many people who never listen to the radio will be unaware that many of their favourite actors from television can be found in numerous radio dramas and comedies. Lenny Henry for example made four series of the BBC radio 4 sitcom Rudy’s rare records. This is easily one of his better shows, but largely undiscovered by the bigger part of the population. Another big comedy TV name Sally Philips, of Smack the pony fame, can be found starring in Clare in the community, another popular radio sitcom, now in its eighth series. This show also has Liza Tarbuck and Gemma Craven in the cast, both well known names from TV. Dramas too are very popular and can be about anything and set anywhere, as they always take place within the listener’s mind.
Drama on radio also attracts big names such as Tim Pigott-Smith, Sue Jenkins, as well as the ubiquitous David Tennant. These names pulled from this week’s radio listings. Why do actors love radio? I think Lenny Henry summed it up perfectly, when he had this to say concerning his experience recording Rudy’s rare records, on his blog “I love the recording day – we meet up in the afternoon for our final read throughs. Tweaks are done in an adjacent room with myself and Dan, Paula and Katie and then suddenly a very groovy audience – a mixture of Radio Four listeners, and lots of Caribbean / African / Asian people who have probably never been to a radio recording before. The laughter you hear is real – there are no ‘canned’ additions.”
Actors love not having to learn a script, believe me that is liberating and saves a huge amount of time. What else appeals to the actor? Well for a start there is no makeup, no costume and they get to just turn up and act using their voice, which is a true art form. Like theatre, it isn’t the money, but the art which attracts the major players to this medium. Add to this one last but very important thing from the actor’s viewpoint, they have the chance to take on different roles, roles which casting directors will shy away from, instead preferring to safely typecast, because of the huge sums riding on TV shows. So radio really is a dream job for any actor who cares about the profession.