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Earleatha Oppon. Radio Drama Planning. Conventions of a radio play.

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conventions of a radio play
Conventions of a radio play

The medium of a radio play is known as an intimate medium because it seems to be broadcast directly to you, rather than a mass audience. Radio is defined by these four codes; words, sounds, music and silence, these four codes are key to the success of my radio play. I plan to use all four to create meaning within my radio play.

sound and silence
Sound and Silence

a variety of sounds is what holds the audiences attention this includes background sounds and atmospheric music

“there is one simple and vital fact governing radio form. The radio act comes out of silence, vibrates in the void and in the mind and returns to silence, like music.”

Donald McWhinnie, BBC Radio Drama Department


Are the most important factor in a radio play. Dialogue or narration must convey the meaning in the play. The right words must be used in an engaging manner. Words are also used to deliver the narrative to the audience. These words then allow the audience to create their own preferred reading of the text.


Music in a radio play can work in a similar way to lighting in a stage play, it creates mood and atmosphere and helps to establish scene changes, it can summarise the mood of what has just happened or signal a change in mood for the next scenes

conventions of a radio play1
Conventions of a radio play

It relies on spoken word, so the voice is key for expression. Intimate and emotional intensity is more effective in this form of media due to the voice, it is also one of the ways in which the audience can begin to understand the character and relate to them.

codes of narrative
Codes of narrative


‘why didn't you tell me?’ straight away will identify to the audience the sound effects hear d during the press conference, until this point the reader does not yet know, why Sandra is angry, this is also an open question that could result in any answer from Raymond and this creates intrigue.


The use of the sounds add to the realism of the radio drama, and create atmosphere, the use of these sound effects allow the listener to remember where the scene is set


The silence plays the part of a dramatic audience to express to the audience that something pivotal has just happened, without this silence it would not be clear whether or not their argument was over.

Preferred reading

The preferred reading of this text is to try and see both couples point of view; they are both given a fair chance to explain themselves, however due to Sandra's feeling of isolation; she feels as though she is losing her husband and this causes her to react in an irrational way, which may cause the audience to feel sympathy for Raymond.

conventions of a domestic drama text
Conventions of a Domestic Drama text
  • My radio play is a domestic drama and it will need to follow a specific guideline in order to stay within this genre; subject, structure, and language.
  • The characters in a domestic drama must be ordinary people. The audience, also ordinary needs to connect with the characters of the domestic drama, and the plot must follow the “domestic sphere” of “traditional families, urban family units, or domestic households.”
  • Domestic dramas follow a fairly linear structure and generally have a sort of patriarchal figure as a representative of the family, which in my radio drama is in the form of Detective Ray Jones.
  • This patriarchal figure provides the guidelines of the everyday nature of the subjects of the show.
  • Confrontations with the patriarchal figure are also a common structure within domestic dramas which comes in the form of Raymond's argument with his wife Sandra.
  • The language used in a domestic drama generally relates with the 'ordinary' subjects of a show to reinforce the “realistic impression” of the show onto an audience.
analysis of other radio dramas
Analysis of other radio dramas


Analysis of Conventions

Here followed the conventions of a radio drama, it consisted of a lot of informative dialogue and clear sound effects, that sounded extremely realistic, it was the realistic impression that it created that enabled me to establish its genre of domestic drama. This domestic drama was about a couple who were looking for a new house, whilst looking for this house and disagreeing with each other the whole time they began arguing about whether they will spend the rest of their lives together.

It consisted of the following features

  • Musical introduction
  • Foot steps
  • Clarity in voice
  • Expression in voice to convey emotion
  • Doors opening and shutting
  • Shower curtains opening to express and demonstrate setting
  • Different characters speak from different sound areas, which allowed the listener to feel as though they were in the middle of the two people having a conversation, this technique almost demands attention, as it gives the listener a sense of inclusion
  • Dialogue covers most of drama for an easy to follow narrative.
  • Every word had meaning or intention and this was clear, as every input in the conversation allowed the reader to gain more information on the couples relationship
  • Door opening and closing and clock ticking
analysis of other radio dramas1
Analysis of other radio dramas


Six Suspects had a clear audience and used clear conventions of a radio drama, this radio drama used a narrator and I found this effective, as you heard the story from one persons point of view but it wasn't a bias point of view, this particular narrator was journalist and the way ‘Six Suspects’ is narrated is in a journalist way which is intriguing. This radio drama included flashbacks and dialogues and realistic sound effects. Descriptive language was also used to allow the listener to set the scene. The radio drama is about a journalist reporting on the shooting of Bollywood movie star at an A-list party.

Conventions found

  • Narrator
  • Background noise to create atmosphere
  • Opening with music
  • Typing sounds to demonstrate the narrators line of work
  • News headline background music to express what is going on within the drama
  • News reporter
  • Accents (Indian nature) help to add realism to setting of drama.
  • Music changes with mood of story
  • Dogs barking in background
  • Outdoors sound (background sounds)
  • Barrels
  • People talking in background add to the realism
  • Gunshot sound, creates dramatic impact
  • Fireworks sound
  • Clapping also help to emphasise the vibrancy of the setting
  • Dialogue does play a key part in radio drama
  • Goes from different scenes to different scenes
  • Keys sound effects; Echoing voice due to cell block, Trains sound, Cars hooting
  • Traffic noise with news reporter outside the prison
  • packed sound effects which for me allowed it to be easily visualised


  • I found this radio play on the Woman’s hour drama and it suits the listeners of the BBC Radio 4 channel, used the search engine, ‘Google’ to research the woman's hour drama and found that it is targeted at listeners seeking intelligent programmes in many genres which inform, educate and entertain. The language used in ‘Six Suspects’ showed this as it was
analysis of other radio dramas2
Analysis of other radio dramas


Analysis of Conventions

Pure dialogue

One narrator but variation in voice


articles on similar subject material

Six Suspects



the story behind my radio play
The story behind my radio play

It was the third murder in 11 weeks in LOUGHBOROUGH, and my husband’s team had come to the conclusion that these horrific murders had a correlation. That there was a sick serial killer around. I’ve always found my husband very heroic but even I knew that this was going to cause a lot of trouble for him. Too much trouble. We hardly have any murders in this town of ours; it’s been a shock to us all. All three cases, all unsolved that’s a lot of pressure on the police to do right for the community.

I look at people as I walk with the children thinking, is it him? It was always a him. It had to be a him. When I thought about the things this killer has done it makes me sick to my stomach. God knows how Raymond thinks about it. I expect it’s all about detail, specifics, not just a general feeling of loathing.

So he comes home, his teeth clamped together; knowing I’m not going to like it.

‘They’ve put me in charge of the hunt for NAME FOR KILLER (PRESS NAME)’. If the job brought us pressure before it just tripled in an instant. I could see he was keen and determined so I had to support him but I also knew in supporting him I would never see him.

I was right. I stood by as he became more and more involved, I must say this was the first time he had ever become what I call ‘obsessed’ with a case.

The children continued to ask me the same questions. I gave the same answer. The truth but also a lie, I hurt as our relationship deteriorated. The phone calls in his lunch hour stopped, the kisses on my forehead when he got in at night, everything just vanished. I barely knew him at all. This tired, drained, emotionally strained, unsatisfied man.

Then they cut him from the case, said he needed a break. I was happy at first; he wasn’t at all, still obsessed, still gripped, and still passionate. The kids screamed ‘daddy!’ but there was no need for the joy. There was a stranger living in our house. One who still pursued the case with even more determination.

I have written the story from Sandra's point of view as although she is a character she is also the narrator in my drama, she will in someway introduce both characters and scenes I need the audience to be able to feel sympathy for her and relate to her. From my analysis of other radio plays, I realised that it would be key to use sound effects to emphasise the setting and to keep the reader engaged as it allows the radio play to sound more realistic.

narrative direction
Narrative direction

GENRE; a single radio play, typically these draw audience in millions, they are innovative and challenging dramas, which BBC’s Radio 3 and 4 specialise in

REPRESENTATION; focus to be on the representation of the wife of a detective (Sandra) who has just become head of a serial killing case, in my radio drama I want to portray both her anger and love, I am hoping to do this through both sound effects and dialogue

Raymond, the detective (her husband) is supposed to be represented in a sympathetic way. As it is a domestic drama a villain isn't needed the audience is suppose to empathise with both Sandra and Raymond and this is what i am hoping to achieve with my radio drama

potential audience
Potential audience
  • Females
  • 20 years plus
  • Working to middle class
  • Wives and mothers
domestic dramas typical audience
Domestic Dramas typical audience
  • Domestic drama tends to appeal to its audience because the events are relatable. The audience is attracted to this style of drama in four ways: empathy, humour, suspense, and resolution of the issues. The audience can relate with the domestic drama because it deals with incidents that are common to 'ordinary' people. Suspense is used in a domestic drama in order for the audience to react with the characters of the play. This makes the audience feel privileged and therefore involved with the unfolding drama. As in all dramas, an audience expects a resolution to the conflict within the narrative. Domestic dramas are intended to drive the playto its resolution to keep the audience wanting to reach the climax, this technique is very similar to the style of modern soap operas.
drafting and re drafting
Drafting and re-drafting

During my drafting and redrafting I realised that the language used in the dialogue and the sound effects were very important, along with the general structure of the narrative.

LANGAUGE needed to be specific and descriptive as the audience needs to be able to picture what is going on in their minds, this requires a lot of detail within the script

‘ladies and gentlemen thank you for coming, I am detective Ray Jones. I’ve called this conference... ‘

This use of language allows the audience to see the setting, the main character, and theme behind play, I thought this was key for the opening of the radio drama, as conventionally it is common to immediately express the setting and characters, to allow early on familiarity for the listener.

drafting and re drafting continued
Drafting and re-drafting continued..

SOUND EFFECTS are needed to add realism to the actual radio drama and also to set the scene, for example I would use domestic sound effects in the scene where Sandra is in the kitchen in order to allow the audience to imagine and picture where the scene is set without actually being told.

drafting and re drafting1
Drafting and re-drafting
  • NARRATIVE needs to be clear and easily followed, I found that the soliloquies that I wanted to use were brief and that they needed to be extended in order for my radio drama to have an effective narrative

I look at people as I walk with the children thinking, is it him? It was always a him. It had to be a him. When I thought about the things this killer has done it makes me sick to my stomach. God knows how Raymond thinks about it. I expect it’s all about detail, specifics, not just a general feeling of loathing.


I look at people as I walk with the children thinking, is it him? It was always a him. It had to be a him. When I think about the things this killer has done it makes me sick to my stomach. God knows how Raymond does it, I mean he’s a husband, a father, a man that witnesses such horrific things but still has to come home to me, to the children, with all these thoughts in his mind. I expect it’s all about detail, and specifics, and not just a general feeling of detestation.


extending conference
Extending conference

YouTube - The Dark Knight - Clip 11

One major part of my drafting and re-drafting in my planning was the urgent extension needed in my opening, it was to brief and it did not fully fulfil its purpose of establishing the scene or characters for the audience, I decided that I needed to watch a dramatised conference in order to enable me to build on mine. One I found was a clip from the Blockbuster hit, ‘The Dark Knight’

organisation of actors and equipment
Organisation of actors and equipment

Day to record: Tuesday 30th March 2010


  • Sandra- Malika
  • Raymond- Dave
  • Journalist- Earleatha Oppon
  • Crowd member- David Milliken
play and blog
Play and blog
  • I am planning to use my blog to continue to upload all research and all drafts of my radio drama; http://earleathaoppon.wordpress.com/
history of radio dramas

Britain produces most of the radio dramas in the English speaking world, the British radio drama exceeds Hollywood's film output and are also cheaper and can take as little as three days to create.

designated station

The BBC first started broadcasting in 1922, its huge success is the reason for Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4 launching in 1967


Created by Norman Collins and originally presented by Alan Ivimey the programme was first broadcast on 7 October 1946 on the BBC's Light Programme (now called Radio 2). It was transferred to its current home, Radio 4 in 1973.

womens hour continued
WOMENS HOUR continued....
  • In its current format, the first 45 minutes of the programme consists of reports, interviews and debates on health, education, cultural and political topics ostensibly aimed at women and mothers (but often of general interest). The last 15 minutes are taken up with short-run drama serials (Woman's Hour Drama‎) which periodically change. This is where my radio drama would be played. One of the most popular of these are the recurring Ladies of Letters serials .Research consistently shows that approximately one third of the programme's listeners are male.
  • Woman's Hour has been broadcast at 10am since James Boyle's revision of the Radio 4 schedules in April 1998. Between September 1991 and April 1998 it was broadcast at 10.30am, having previously gone out for many years in an early afternoon slot. A weekend version is broadcast on Saturday afternoons at 4 pm, which features highlights of the previous week. Due to the time of day Woman’s Hour is shown it is clear that it is easy listening, which is what my radio drama is.
radio 4 s audience

The remit of Radio 4 is to be a mixed speech service, offering in-depth news and current affairs and a wide range of other speech output including drama, readings, comedy, factual and magazine programmes. The service should appeal to listeners seeking intelligent programmes in many genres which inform, educate and entertain.

I believe my radio drama would appeal to Radio 4’s audience as it addresses the same issues as Radio 4 and would appeal to this ‘intelligent’ audience as it portrays the everyday lives of conflict within marriage.