Documentary on One

Radio Drama : 50 Years of Irish Radio

Augustine Martin takes a look back at 50 years of radio drama in this commemorative programme from 1976.

Radio Drama : 50 Years of Irish Radio

The early pioneering days of the medium say plays relayed live from the Gate, pantomimes and variety from the Gaiety. Abbey actors on Sunday nights, their one night off from the theatre, trouped across to Henry Street to present a sound version of their current production.

In 1936 the first competition for radio plays was launched with prizes of five guineas for the winning contributors and in 1939 the prize was raised to 10 guineas. As yet, there was no permanent company of radio actors; amateur societies alternated with professionals from the theatre; university lecturers produced Shakespeare and in places spoke the part of the narrator.

The years 1947 and 1948 marked a dramatic turning point, with the arrival of a full orchestra, a mobile unit, and above all the founding of the Radio Eireann Players. It was the great moment for drama, a moment which brought to fruition the strenuous work of Roibeárd O Faracháin to have a permanent repertory company formed.

From then on it progressed from strength to strength, crowned by two brilliant successes in the Italia prize: Micheál O hAodhas masterly adaptation of Seamus O'Kelly's The Weaver's Grave in 1961, and Dan Treston's incomparable drama, The Piano in the River in 1965. Side by side with these triumphs there was the unique achievement of the late Padraic Fallon, perhaps our greatest radio dramatist, and the work of Austin Clarke and of James Plunkett, each exhibiting a total sureness of touch in a dramatic medium radically distinct from the boards of the theatre.

Presented by Augustine Martin

First Broadcast 1st February 1976

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries

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