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Radio Drama is a old but still very real format for storytelling, where the imagination takes on a much bigger role during the performance. Radio Dramas are nowadays mostly listened to by Middle/Upper Class people, usually older. In 2011, BBC Radio 4 (famous for being spoken-word only) reached listening figures of over 11 million people. Radio 4 is also the second biggest radio station in the UK.
Words and Voices are key to a successful Radio Drama; there is no other way to capture the attention of the audience and so the drama must use the words and voices in the drama. As there is no visual for the audience to follow, they have to use the audio to guide them and give them structure in order for them to be able to follow the story, when producing a radio drama ensuring that the voice fits the character and that the words they speak suit the accent. For example, in the Radio Drama “An Everyday Story of Afghan Folk” actors from middle-eastern backgrounds have been chosen to provide the voices for the characters. This works because their accents will really help the audience picture the location of the drama.
Sound and Silence are useful tools when used correctly but it can possibly be dangerous if used incorrectly. What I mean by this is that if your silence drags on for too long, the listener might be tempted to change channel or might think that the drama is over. Alternatively, silence can be used as a way to mark the end of a scene and/or to make clear of a break in the dialogue.
Music and Ambience falls into similar usage when compared with TV drama; music is used for setting the tone and feel of a scene. If the scene is romantic, then the music could be warm and/or sensual. If the scene is action-packed, then the music might be dramatic. A good example of music used dramatically might be Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, based on the novel by HG Wells. The music is mostly orchestral, giving the drama a decent range of sounds and a very diverse soundtrack.
Speech is the final Code of Radio Drama I looked at, and this is simply how the words are spoken. Changes in pitch, in tone and in volume of voice can have great effects on the quality of the drama. Obviously, you don’t want your speech to be too loud or for it to be too quiet, or else the listener either wouldn’t be able to hear the ambience or won’t be able to hear the dialogue. Either way, you should look to make sure that your audio is balanced correctly.
Aural signposting is a popular convention of radio drama; it is the use of ambient sound to tell the audience where they are. This is the equivalent of (in TV and Film) actually using a signpost, this is used because the audience feels like they are actually transported to the desired location. If you were to shut your eyes while listening to a radio drama with good aural signposting, you should be able to easily see yourself at the location.
A lot of the time in radio dramas, they will end on a cliffhanger in order to persuade the listener to tune in to the next episode. If the drama is successful at making the listener relate to the characters, a cliffhanger becomes a useful tool as the listener is desperate to know what happens next. However, if cliffhangers are used way too often, then they could lose their impact. Cliffhangers have been used for thousands of years; one of the earliest known cliffhangers was written by Homer in his epic the “Odyssey”. We see the suitors setting a trap for Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, and then the following chapters are about Odysseus and his travels. We do not learn of Telemachus’s fate until further on into the story, despite the tension put in place by the cliffhanger being there.
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