The Dark Ages: A study in pictures of a radio production

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Delia's papers contain a glossy magazine article entitled The Dark Ages: A study in pictures of a radio production by Michael Bakewell about the creation of the radio play The Dark Ages.

This transcript is taken from DD135326 and DD135343.



A study in pictures of a radio production

Hilda Schroder in labour. There was nothing for it but to go through as much of the physical agony as possible. The cast watch thoughtfully. The loud hailer stands ready for an execution scene.
Michael Bryant and the crowd singing the Westland National Anthem.
One of the problems of this kind of production, particularly in a new studio, is that the cast never seem to know where to go next and mere words are not enough.
A howling mob, bent on destruction, tears across the studio while Michael Bryant takes life quietly.

THE DARK AGES take place in the womb. It is a nightmare vision of the future in the mind of a baby waiting to be born. It is the last leg of a trilogy by Bernard Kops (Home Sweet Honeycomb, The Lemmings) and there are times when I feel I have never worked with any other writer.
   Bernard believes in the art of total radio—sound can do anything, say anything. A typical direction reads:
   There are quiet sounds denoting the fact that everyone and everything is turning or has turned to gold.
   Or again:
   When the music starts we think it is about to be Verdi's Requiem but instead it is a very slow rendering of the Hokey-Kokey.
   There can be no half measures in putting his work on air. You simply have to give him exactly what he asks for and hope that it will work. It is a matter of continual astonishment to me that it always does. However, this time he had presented us with an even more difficult problem than usual since nearly every scene had to have a special electronic background. We decided that [continued on DD135343]

Bernard Kops says very little at rehearsal. He simply sits there looking very worried—but he is never as worried as he looks.
James Thomason and Miriam Margoyles as porpoises. The final fishy treatment will be carried out at the radiophonic workshop but they are already well into their parts.
Song always plays a very important part in Kops's work. It is always a sharp and rapid way of reflecting public sentiment. And it gives the cast an opportunity to relax.
One of those moments of comparative peace when the producer is trying to work out what on earth to do next. A play of this kind needs a good many pauses for thought and... is small wonder that the cast tend to sieze every opportunity to relax.

this could only be added at a later stage at the radiophonic workshop and that we should confine our time in studio B.10 to recording the words and some of the simpler sound effects sequences:
   A child cries. A horse cries from fear. A woman screams. And men march, march, march. Sirens. And through this Bing Crosby sings ‘Love in Bloom’. Missiles scream down.
   Sounds of machine-gun fire and people cheering and community singing and then the moving pavement and singing ‘For He's a Jolly Good Fellow’.

   For six days the cast sang, danced, screamed, and cheered their way through the script. Anyone who believed that radio was a quiet remote affair where actors stood round the mike and read their scripts was rapidly disillusioned. There were wild ecstasies of excitement in the betting shops, surplus people were shot by thousands in the brain room, and over and over again—or so it seems now—the Hokey-Kokey was danced by an unflagging cast. Later in the year I have to produce the play for German radio in Baden Baden. I shall be very curious to see how the Germans take to this kind of treatment.

Michael Bakewell

Photographs by ‘Radio Times’