The Sonic Society

Showcasing the very best in new Audio Drama

Riotous Review

The Guardian produced an article asking what was happening in The week in radio and podcasts: Riot Girls; Between the Ears: A Cow a Day.

Miranda Sawyer has problems with much of the dialogue in modern audio dramas. Here’s a snippet of her article:

Radio drama. Oh God. I try, really I do, but so much of it leaves me either rigid with boredom or seething with irritation, madly stomping round the park yelping “No one talks like this!” at the dog. And BBC radio drama is the worst. It’s all so written. Which would be fine, if the writing were taken to a poetic extreme, if the playwrights used rhythm and rhyme and pause and imagery in the way of Harold Pinter or Philip Ridley or Sarah Kane or debbie tucker green. But when you’re listening to something that’s meant to be natural and you can hear the tap-tap of computer keys running through? That’s not good. Plus, it’s not enough to have a neat concept, a contemporary idea to be examined. Journalists have those. Playwrights should take such concepts and ideas and tear them apart, stab them in the stomach, watch them scab over and then pick at the wound. Not just place everybody in sitcom positions and offer us the hilarious consequences.

Gah. Sorry. It’s just I was looking forward to Radio 4’s Riot Girls last week. The tagline reads thus: “Series of no-holds-barred dramas written by women, featuring extraordinary female characters and their lives.” Perhaps an ancient queen, a sporting heroine, a political revolutionary, a working warrior? Perhaps not…

Let’s be positive. The dramatic adaptations of Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride and Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist (Yes! Revolutionaries!) were fine – though of course the books are far better – but some of the specially commissioned drama was woeful. Which just goes to show that even good writers – and these plays were all written by good writers – struggle with radio plays.

How do you feel about audio dramatic dialogue? Do you think it should be more realistic or heightened in some way?

About The Author

Born to Teachers and Amateur Audio Enthusiasts in the small rural community of Belwood, Jack's first love was stories- writing, reading, telling, and singing. He developed his acting skills through High School, University, and through film and community theatre. Jack writes the lion's share of Electric Vicuna's Audio Drama scripts and has his own writing site at He's thrilled to co-host the Sonic Society with his wonderful, talented, friend David Ault!


2 Responses to “Riotous Review”

  1. Michael Langworthy says:

    This Guardian article is at best an example of painting with too broad a brush and at worst uses stating the obvious as an excuse to showcase the writer’s ability to communicate a smug sense of world weariness. It draws attention to herself at the expense of offering insight into the topic.

    It’s axiomatic that in all eras and all genres, most writing isn’t very good. That’s why Harold Pinter and Doris Lessing have Nobel prizes and other writers don’t. To criticize writers for not doing what made writers like this laureates is to say nothing.

    Similarly, to wrap an insult in a compliment by saying dramas based on books, while good, are not as good as the books, also says nothing. It is criticizing the plays for not being something they are not trying to be. In this case without offering any evidence to justify even the unfair comparison she draws.

    it does give her an opportunity to position herself as a poor, long-suffering listener constantly subjected to–what?–a stream of less than once in a lifetime experiences? If she wanted to say something useful, she should have given some examples of how these radio dramas were so egregiously substandard to justify her condemnation of radio dramas as a genre.

  2. Jack says:

    Well said Michael!

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