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     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

Workshops for Writing, Producing and Acting Radio Drama, Documentaries, Poetry and Readings

Beginning Your Play

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Radio is not a captive medium.  You must enchant and enthral your listener within the first two or three minutes or they will switch off.

Letís look at the work of a master of radio, Giles Cooper.  In this play from the early sixties he is writing about an ordinary man in an ordinary situation and yet he invites us to empathise with Bundy his central character and to become involved in his dilemma.

How does he do this?

Authorís note: Mervyn Bundy, the principal character of this play, has been divided into two parts, Bundy Major and Bundy Minor.  This is partly because he has a lot to say to himself and partly because some of what he says would never be said by the Bundy we see walking about the streets, this being Bundy Major, who is nearly always unaware of the existence of Bundy Minor.  Minor, on the other hand, is only too well aware of Bundy Major, being inside him and unable to get out.

Another convention that Giles Cooper introduces is that of the play having a surrealistic dimension, which he is to use to great effect later. Listen to the dust in Bundyís hall.

Notice also how sparing but really effective the sound effects are.  Beware of having too many, confusing sound effects.

Actors: try delivering the lines as quickly, clearly and articulately as you can and without making them sound ďreadĒ.

Directors: Think about mike positions, acoustics and how and when in the recording process you introduce the sound effects. Actors will usually relate more naturally to "spot" or "live" rather than pre-recorded sound effects.

The Script

ANNOUNCER We present a play by Giles Cooper entitled, 'The Disagreeable Oyster'.
BUNDY You can say that again.
ANNOUNCER 'The Disagreeable Oyster'
BUNDY They do disagree with me, but how was I to know when I stood on the steps of the Rosedene Family and Commercial Hotel, thinking that the world was my oyster that -
BUNDY MINOR Begin at the beginning.
BUNDY Oh, the beginning is at twelve o'clock on a Saturday morning in my office at Craddock's Calculators Ltd.  It is not a nice office, even the typing pool have a narrow view of St. Paulís, but poor old Bundy Ö
BUNDY MINOR My name, Mervyn Bundy Ö
BUNDY: Deputy Head of Costing, has to put up with an office looking out on an air shaft, and all I can see is the upstairs part of a mercantile bank Ö
BUNDY MINOR: Well?
BUNDY: Thatís the beginning.  Iím sitting at my desk on a fine May morning, wondering whether itís worth starting anything else before the weekend begins.
(DOOR OPENS NOISILY)
GUNN: Bundy! Good man, Bundy, glad youíre still here.
BUNDY: Yes, Mr. Gunn?
GUNN: Bundy, thereís a crisis, pin your ears back and listen.
BUNDY MINOR: Mr. Gunn has ginger hair growing out of his ears.
GUNN: C.C.W.ís Stoddeshunt works have just rung through to say that thereís an inconsistent error in the V.V.X. machine they brought from us.  They're working overtime this week on an export contract with a dirty big penalty clause.  Okay, Bundy?
BUNDY: Yes, sir.
GUNN: Right, now Maintenance have two men on leave, one sick and one in Pompey.
BUNDY MINOR: Mr Gunn spits a little when he says words like Pompey.
GUNN: That's their full establishment.  Okay, Bundy?
BUNDY: Yes, sir.
GUNN: Right, but all the same we've got to get someone up there soonest or we'll lose their account.  Okay, Bundy?
BUNDY: Yes, sir.
GUNN: Right, you'll go straight along to Accounts and draw money for expenses, you will then catch the one five, change at Leicester for Stoddeshunt.  You will go to the C.C.W. works and ask for Mr Rigg.  He'll show you the machine and you will correct the error. Right?
BUNDY: But, sir, I'm Costs, not Maintenance.
GUNN: Great heavens, man, I know that, but this is an emergency.  Can't you rise to an emergency?
BUNDY MINOR: He spits when he says emergency too.
GUNN: The board are worried sick about this C.C.W. account.  They'd have recalled the Pompey man, only Pompey's an emergency too.  Now don't stand there dabbing yourself with your handkerchief, man.  Get cracking.
BUNDY: I'll have to tell my wife.
GUNN: Ring her up.
BUNDY: I might have to stay the night.
GUNN: You will, I know the trains.
BUNDY: I've no things.
GUNN: Buy them, get yourself a toothbrush, pyjamas, bedroom slippers, anything you like when you get there.  Here's a chit for the cashier; I'll make it out for thirty pounds.  Okay, Bundy?
BUNDY: Yes, sir.
GUNN: Right, and whatever you do, don't miss that train.
(DOOR SLAMS)
BUNDY: I haven't slept away from home for twenty-two years but I couldn't tell him that.
(FADE IN RINGING TONE OF TELEPHONE)
BUNDY MINOR: That's my telephone on the rickety table in my hall.  I can hear the sunlight sending a long shaft down from the landing window, I can hear the carpet breathing dust.
(RINGING TONE STOPS.  RECEIVER LIFTED)
ALICE: (DISTORT) Hullo, who's that?  My husband's out.
BUNDY: Alice, it's me, it's Mer.
ALICE: Is something wrong?
BUNDY: No, no, but I've got to go away for the night for the firm.  It's an emergency.
ALICE: For the night?
BUNDY: Yes, and I've got to buy a toothbrush and a pair of pyjamas.  I'll wear my mackintosh as a dressing gown.
ALICE: But what about me?  I shall be all alone.
BUNDY: I know, darling, but it can't be helped.  It's an emergency.  I'll be back tomorrow morning, don't forget to put the chain on the door.
ALICE: But who will get the coal, and who will empty the rubbish from the kitchen?
BUNDY: I will, Alice, I will, tomorrow.
ALICE: And bread, I want a wrapped loaf and the shops are shut.
(TRAIN WHISTLES)
BUNDY: I'll get some in Stoddeshunt, but now I must catch the train.   Goodbye, Alice, look after yourself, goodbye. (TRAIN RUNNING UNDER FOLLOWING SPEECHES) Ö I havenít travelled from Euston for years.   Itís all so different from what Iím used to.

   More notes to actors:

Many actors, when new to radio, are inhibited by the microphone.    
Try and learn as quickly as possible to overcome any inhibition.  
It won't bite.   
You need to learn to master it.  
The best way to do this is to treat it as the ear of your best friend or lover.    
Learn to cajole, caress, frighten, share a joke, praise or do whatever is appropriate to it.

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We recommend:

We also recommend the following radio scripts: Polaris by Fay Weldon in Best Radio Plays of 1978, I Never Killed My German and Of the Levitation at St Michael's by Carey Harrison in A Suffolk Trilogy, The Village Fete by Peter Tinniswood in Best Radio Plays of 1987, Cigarettes and Chocolate by Anthony Minghella in Best Radio Plays of 1988, Death and the Tango by John Fletcher and Song of the Forest by Tina Pepler in Best Radio Plays of 1990 and In the Native State by Tom Stoppard in Best Radio Plays of 1991.  Sadly some of these scripts are out of print.  However you should be able to order them from your local library

We also recommend the recording of Lee Hall's wonderful first radio play, I Luv U Jimmy Spud.  Lee went on to write the screenplay of Billy Elliot.