Bilingual Radio Drama for Monolingual Audience – a first in production
Submitting InstitutionLondon South Bank University
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
Summary of the impact
This case study is based on research investigating the nature, challenges
and potential of audio-drama, and especially bilingual audio-drama.
Specifically, it explored the possibilities for creating bilingual drama
for monolingual audiences; the effects of using different recording
environments; and the advantages of cross-cultural collaboration.
Impact includes: (i) a growth in the practice and reach of bilingual
audio-drama in the radio broadcasting sector, both in the UK and
internationally; (ii) the establishment of the radio play as an act of
live theatre; and (iii) an increased awareness of the possibilities for
collaborative audio-drama production across cultural and linguistic
The research underpinning this Impact Case Study explored the nature,
challenges and potential of bilingual radio drama for an audience fluent
in only one of the languages involved. It was carried out over the period
2005-2009, and was led by Jonathan Banatvala (Senior Lecturer in Theatre
Practice: Creative Producing at LSBU, and Artistic Director of Moving
Theatre), with international collaborators: Dr Gunther Freisinger (Vienna
University), Toma Enache (Radio Romania International) and Eoin Brady (RTE
Lyric FM). The research was funded by grants from the Arts Council,
England (£40,000) and the EU Culture 2000 programme (€60,000).
A two phase action research methodology was adopted, to explore:
a) whether radio drama could be created entirely bilingually to be fully
understood by a monolingual audience from either language;
b) the impact of recording radio drama in a range of different recording
c) the artistic benefits of partnership working across cultural and
Phase 1 (2005-6), co-ordinated and led by Banatvala, involved all four
partners and selected multi-lingual actors, in identifying and developing
a framework and conventions for the creation and delivery of radio dramas
in two languages. This culminated in a two-day `laboratory' workshop.
Suitable pieces were adapted, recorded and analysed. The research clearly
identified the important contribution of creatively written code-switching
in the overall listening environment and how this enhances the dramatic
In Phase 2 (2007-9), each production team contributed to the production
of a season of five 30-minute bilingual dramas in English and a second
language. As well as producing the two UK productions, Banatvala curated
and directed the overall season (on opera heroines). The research also
explored different recording environments: two of the dramas were recorded
in front of live theatre audiences, one was recorded on location in rural
Ireland, and one in a traditional recording studio. In a further
development, the studio-recorded drama was then performed live as an
audio-drama at LSBU before a multi-lingual audience of over 100 people.
The season of radio dramas was intended for an online audience as well as
for a mainstream radio broadcast.
Key findings from the research were:
- Bilingual radio drama which a monolingual audience could understand
could be produced without the aid of visual clues.
- Notwithstanding the linguistic challenge, the audience experience was
enhanced because the changes in language were used to signal
relationship and character developments through the process of code
switching between bilingual characters.
- The choice of music and soundscape were important in contributing to
audience engagement and understanding. The musicality of the language
was also a key factor in this process.
- The audience experience across the two languages was not necessarily
identical but neither was superior to the other.
- Where the performance was recorded as live and subsequently edited,
this was not directly discernible for the radio audience but it had an
important impact on the performers and the heightened performances they
gave. This was reflected in the overall quality of the production.
- A live audience can fully respond to bilingual radio drama as an art
form in its own right.
- The choice of English as one of the languages by all producers gave
the plays a broader international currency than had been expected.
This innovative research indicates that carefully orchestrated bilingual
radio drama not only equals but can exceed the dramatic experience of
listening to radio drama in a single language. The outputs which embody
the research primarily consist of live performances, creative writing,
multilingual radio and audio, with impacts on cultural life and civil
References to the research
The Works Season, The Works Partnership (2009), Artistic Director
J. Banatvala, publ. Monochrom. http://theworks24.wordpress.com/
The following are the 5 productions in The Works:
• A La Villa Bab Azzoun (w. K. Hesketh Harvey, d. J. Banatvala,
LSBU & Moving Theatre), recorded as live at Hampstead Theatre, London
2008 (Prix Marulic 2009, Prix Europa finalist 2010)
• The Way of All Women (w. J. Fletcher, d. J. Banatvala, LSBU
& Moving Theatre), recorded as live at Canning House, London 2008 (New
York Festivals Radio P & P Award 2009)
• The Flying Dutchman of Iniskillin (w. T. Swift, d. J. Mangan,
RTE Lyric FM), co-funded by RTE Lyric FM, recorded on location vic. Dublin
2007 (PPI finalist 2008)
• Bucharest Underground (w. S. Stanescu, d. T. Enache, Radio
Romania), co-funded by Radio Romania International, recorded in studio
Bucharest 2007 (Grand Prix Marulic 2007)
• La Grotta di Bernd (w. F. Schneider, d. G. Friesinger,
Monochrom, Vienna), co-funded by Monochrom, recorded in `basement',
All broadcasts carry the following credit information:
`Name of work' was recorded in `name of place' as part of the The
Works, a pan-European Radio Drama season by partners Lyric RTE,
Monochrome, Moving Theatre and National Radio Romania. The Works
is funded by Culture 2000, Arts Council, England and the season's Artistic
Director is Jonathan Banatvala.
Report on The Works, A European Radio Drama Project: by Moving
Theatre, Radio Romania International, RTE Lyric FM, SRA/Monochrom, ed. M.
Nock, submitted to EACEA Brussels, March 2009 (available from LSBU on
Arts Council England, The Works Final Evaluation Report: by
Moving Theatre, ed. M. Nock, submitted online, 2009 (available from LSBU
Details of the impact
Banatvala's research outputs have been manifested in a number of novel
works, which have received international acclaim. To develop, produce and
present these works, Banatvala together with the partners set up a special
purpose production and marketing vehicle, The Works Partnership, in 2007.
Since 2008, the Works Partnership together with Moving Theatre Ltd have
received over £252,000 in development grants, including over £100k from
the EU Culture Programme, £11k from the European Cultural Foundation and
£95k from the Arts Council to:
- Develop the successor project to The Works: The Mechanics,
a partnership between Moving Theatre, Radio Romania International,
Theatre Ephemeride (France), Association Greenwave (Georgia), and
Tbilisi State Music and Drama Theatre (Georgia), to produce five
different interpretations of the story of Carmen from an
original adaptation commissioned by the partnership. The partnership
produced a choreo-drama, a bilingual stage play, a radio installation,
and an interactive audio-drama.
- Develop and co-produce a bilingual adaptation of Troilus and
Cressida in Georgian and Russian with interleaved monologues
written from original interviews with survivors on both sides of the
South Ossetian war (2008). Produced in Kutaisi and Tbilisi (see below).
Up until 2011, The Works Partnership was the only UK arts company to: (i)
be the lead partner on two EU Culture Fund projects; (ii) lead a project
in the 2011 EU Culture Fund Third Country Stream; and (iii) have led a
radio-based collaboration project. Access to Banatvala's research has
enabled Moving Theatre to move from producing works for UK national
touring to being a leading international research and development company
in the field of audio-drama.
Banatvala's research has made an impact in three important areas:
1. The practice and reach of bilingual radio drama:
Prior to Banatvala's research, bilingual radio drama was primarily drama
written in two languages but not integrated into a single drama (e.g.
Beckett's work). Following Banatvala's research there has been a tangible
uplift in bilingual radio drama, evidenced by, for example:
- BBC Radio has collaborated with Radio France to produce Déjà Vu,
a play in French and English, on Radio 4 and Radio France in 2009 [www.arteradio.com/son/334014/].
- Among the radio projects which received funding in 2010 from Ireland's
Cogar Sound & Vision, three were bilingual Irish/English [www.cogar.ie/default.aspx?treeid=346&ItemID=76].
- In 2013, the international arm of the French National Radio Station
(Radio France International) began broadcasting a bilingual radio drama
series in French and Hausa to African listeners [http://allafrica.com/stories/201310120194.html].
This is believed to be the first of its kind.
In addition, the bilingual plays emanating from his research have reached
audiences beyond their partner countries, for example:
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National acquiring Bucharest
Underground in 2010 for Airplay, its primary radio drama
programme, attracting an average audience of 40000 [www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/airplay/bucharest-underground/3029062].
- Following the award of the Prix Marulic 2009, Hannu Karisto from YLE
Radio Finland is in negotiations to broadcast A La Villa Bab Azzoun.
- Radio Romania specifically broadcast Bucharest Underground
through its international arm, Radio Romania International.
2. The practice of live recording of serious drama:
A further manifestation of Banatvala's research has been the
establishment of the radio play as an act of live theatre and as an
important theatrical experience in its own right, through the recording of
serious drama as a live performance in front of a theatre audience (e.g. A
La Villa Bab Azoun and The Way of All Women recorded live in
London, 2009). Prior to this, live radio had been confined to comedy and
panel games in the UK and some community radio. For example, the Romanian
Cultural Centre presented a live performance of Bucharest Underground
as a cultural event in 2009. In the UK, since 2010, The Wireless Radio
Company has established a reputation as a producer of live performances
for radio drama recordings, playing to sell out audiences. Other companies
too have subsequently developed a profile for radio plays for live
performance: the Fitzrovia radio plays have toured to popular and critical
acclaim in each year since 2009, for instance, and a version of The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for radio will tour theatres in
late 2013 performing to live audiences.
3. Partnership working across cultural and linguistic borders:
The impact of Banatvala's research in this area is reflected in the
Moving Theatre company's involvement in a partnership programme (set up
2010) with Theatre Ephemeride (France), Radio Romania International,
Association Greenwave (Georgia) and Tbilisi State Music and Drama Theatre
(Georgia) which received EU Cultural funding and support from Arts Council
England for The Mechanics — a programme to reinterpret the story
of Carmen using a range of languages and performing arts forms. At
the heart of The Mechanics was the creation of a full-length
bilingual stage play reinterpreting the Carmen story for an
English and French audience. Other elements of the programme included:
- a radio installation led by Association Greenwave in which selected
participants worked with an artist on themes inspired by the Carmen
- an original `interactive radio drama' (with Wireless Theatre Company),
extending the radio drama as an art form for the digital age. Individual
online users create their own drama from a selection of scenes, sound
effects and music and then re-post their creation for others to hear.
All the scenes are professionally performed but the individual listener
is invited to create his/her own relationship with the piece by choosing
which to include and deciding where to take the storyline.
Across the programme, figures reported to the Arts Council for The
Mechanics included 48 artists involved; 1,000 participants; 4,000
members of live audiences; and 150,000 viewing the production via
broadcast, online or written versions; 6 commissions; artist employment of
1,200 days; and 40 education, training or participation events across the
partner countries during 2011-12.
A partnership between Moving Theatre and Lado Meshkishvili State Theatre
(Georgia), delivered a ground-breaking bilingual production of Troillus
and Cressida in Georgian and Russian with interpolated verbatim
monologues (2011). The monologues were drawn from interviews from
participants in the Georgian/Ossetian war. The production involved 24
actors, two translators, a set and costume designer for eight weeks.
The research has also contributed to the UK listener's appetite for
internationally-produced radio drama and a willingness to engage with
unfamiliar formats, languages and themes. One indicator of this has been a
clear interest in the UK in establishing an International Radio Drama
festival in Britain. Drama producers from ABC Australia, Radio Romania,
Radio Croatia, Deutchelandfunk and the BBC have all supported this
proposal. A survey of thirty representatives at the 2013 Prix Marulic
received unanimous support for such a festival. The project has similarly
been met with approval from Arts Council England, Canterbury Festival
2010, East Sussex County Council (RUGEF programme) and the Interreg Manche
European funding programme.
Sources to corroborate the impact
The following links should be treated as a single reference. They measure
the number of times each audio-drama was viewed, listened to in its
entirety and downloaded from the Wordpress site:
Nominations and Awards:
- A Prix Marulic award (2009) for A La Villa Bab Azzoun. (A
total of 47 shows from over 20 countries submitted to an international
panel) — (citation available from LSBU on request.)
- New York Festivals Radio Programming and Promotion (NYFRP&P) award
(2009) for The Works season [http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/main.php?p=3,1&compcode=RP
(NB: search for Moving Theatre, 2009)].
- Shortlisted for the Irish PPI Radio Awards (2009) for The Flying
Dutchman of Iniskillin — (available from LSBU on request).
- Shortlisted for the Prix Europa (2010) for A La Villa Bab Azzoun
— (available from LSBU on request).
(i) Development Director, Moving Theatre.
(ii) Director, NFA International Arts & Culture (former Theatre
Officer, Arts Council, England).
(iii) Producer, Wireless Theatre Company.
(iv) Actor; Self Employed Freelance.