A Comedy of Danger - 1st play written for radio - 1924

Episode 972,   Dec 22, 2014, 09:45 PM

Radio seems a natural medium for the play, or maybe it doesn’t. The first to be commissioned especially for the wireless in Britain was ‘A Comedy of Danger’, aired in January 1924. The playwright was 23 year old Richard Hughes: “I was asked by the BBC, in January of 1924, to write a play for effect by sound only, in the same way that film plays are written for effect by sight only”. The production was set in the darkness of a coalmine, where listeners and characters alike were at the same disadvantage. Both could ‘see’ nothing.

Enjoy here a slice of that first production, and sadly slices are all that remain. It is followed by comment from Head of Programmes, Val Gielgud, who insisted, correctly, that radio demands a careful sort of writing; and a great deal of listener attention too. (Val was the elder brother of Sir John Gielgud) In this statement, and in other BBC publications from the time, great emphasis was placed on the importance of the listener paying attention to what is broadcast.

‘What’s happened?’. ‘The light have gone out’ were the key lines which launched the new art of radio theatre proper.

The play, which had originally been broadcast live, was remade and broadcast in February 2013. Richard Hughes died in his beloved Wales on April 28th 1976.