The Radio Exhibition at Olympia was not only the most elaborate presentation of B.B.C. equipment and wireless sets, but there was a reconstruction of the new Studio No. 2, built in 1926:
.. The largest single exhibit at Olympia is the B.B.C. studio, which will occupy the whole of the north side of the gallery in the new hall. This is not a mere model, but a really working studio, 44 ft by 24 ft in size, with all the constructional features of the largest studio at Savoy Hill. The chief difference is that in the exhibition studio there will be a plate-glass window three feet high, extending right along one side of the studio and the control room.
('The Radio Times' 3 September 1926 p 410)
This was a new, forward-looking B.B.C. There were direct transmissions and on September 8:
at about 7.10 p.m. Sir Frank Benson, the famous Shakespearean actor, will give his talk on his stage memories under the title "All the world's a Stage" from the Olympia Studios ..
In Savoy Hill itself, there were some 92 pieces broadcast, on 2LO and Daventry, with a sort of a Tuesday and Thursday scheduling. The Savoy Hill 'Repertory System' raised this combined total to 152. An average of five plays a month were being sent S.B. to regional stations from the centre. This made the Savoy Hill players the most established and provided more of a steady income for the actors (6.2.6).
'Shakespeare's Heroines' was an innovation in Shakespeare broadcasting and began on 2 May, the day before the General Strike, and went through the year. It was an opportunity to bring leading actresses to the microphone about twice a month: Mrs. Patrick Campbell reviving her 'Lady Macbeth' at the age of sixty-one, Gwen Frangcon-Davies as Desdemona, Edith Evans as Beatrice, Laura Cowie and Fabia Drake in 'Twelfth Night', Fay Compton as Ophelia, Madge Titheradge as Katharine in 'The Taming of the Shrew' (at the age of thirty-nine), etc. These half-hours became more elaborate, with longer cast lists and there were usually three scenes.
The biggest innovation in content was the broadcasting of successful West End plays in cut-down versions. There were ten such examples. 'Hassan' (James Elroy Flecker) of the previous November had led the way, though none matched its extravagance in resources. Arthur Bourchier (3.2.11) brought his 'West End Company' into Savoy Hill with the best-known pantomime London had to offer and himself as Long John Silver (5 January 1926 London 8.05-10). (The stage performance that day was a matinée.)
There was 'Lady Windermere's Fan' (Oscar Wilde) (29 April 1926 2LO London 8-9.30), presented by R.E. Jeffrey, with Milton Rosmer, Henry Oscar and Cathleen Nesbitt. This was the first revival since the 1911 production at the St. James's Theatre, a British silent film in 1916 with Milton Rosmer in the same role as Lord Windermere, and an American silent film in 1925. There was not to be another London production till 1930 in the Everyman (Tanitch, 1999, 106-8).
Here are some others. 'Monsieur Beaucaire' by one of the most successful West End playwrights, Frederick Lonsdale (8 June 1926 2LO London 7.40-9.30), produced by Frederick Lloyd, a leading actor, came after the 1924 stage success (101 performances), though none of the original cast were involved.
As noted before (2.1.9), Howard Rose now directed 'The Way of an Eagle' (Ethel M. Dell) (16 June 1926 2LO London 8-9.30) in which he had played the role of Sir Reginald Bassett at the Adelphi Theatre (20 June - 30 September 1922). Arnold Bennett and Edward Knoblock's 'Milestones', arranged and produced by Edward Knoblock was given in 'a shortened version' (15 July 1926 2LO London 8-9.30) and was originally premiered in 1920. The 1898 classic, 'Trelawny of the Wells' (Arthur W. Pinero), was produced by Howard Rose with up-and-coming wireless actors, Mathew Boulton, Philip Wade, Gladys Young and veteran now, William Macready (9 September 1926 London 8-9.30). There were no full-length Shakespeares on 2LO that year.
This policy of wireless West End popular successes grew apace in 1927. These plays were an hour and a half long, and this is the point of origin of B.B.C. radio drama as Shaftesbury Avenue and the 'National Theatre of the Air', though no such claims were being made. Indeed, the silence of R.E. Jeffrey over this is significant.
Competitions sponsored by newspapers and magazines increased after the first 'Mayfair Mystery' episode began in December 1925 ('every listener a detective'). This competition received over 10,500 entries ('The Radio Times' 8 January 1926 p 103) and the prize was £100 for 'the original solution' to a murder thriller. Frank Shaw had contributed the part-play and when his solution in a sealed envelope was opened on 19 December, it read:
Ralph Robertson accidentally killed himself, as a result of an endeavour to wrest a revolver from the hand of his Chinese servant, Li Wong, who was assisted in the struggle by the female servant, Chowsy.
The 'Daily Graphic' sponsored a 'Mystery Concert' (30 April 1926 2LO London 7.15-11), in which 'several mystery novelties and sound-effect cameos' were broadcast, along with 'Fatal Thirteen' (Alfred Judd), 'a radio mystery play' starring Henry Oscar, Michael Hogan, Ralph de Rohan and Rothbury Evans. 'Pearson's Weekly' sponsored the 'What would you do'? sketches, four in number, presented by R.E. Jeffrey, with regular 2LO actors Theo Charlton, Michael Hogan, Phyllis Panting, Miriam Ferris, Henry Oscar and Philip Wade (10 May London 1926 8-8.50). Each sketch terminated in an 'ambiguous situation' and the prizes for the best solutions valued £100. Another novelty was 'The Play's the Thing' (22 June 1926 2LO London 8.35-8.55), presented by R.E. Jeffrey:
But what about two plays? First listen to a five-minute drama and then to a five-minute comedy; and then listen to the two plays acted together as one.
The result is !!!
The other enormous innovation was the strengthening of the Savoy Hill 'Repertory System' (already discussed above and in 5.5-6). Productions were sent S.B. from Savoy Hill to various regional stations, though not broadcast on 2LO or Daventry at the same time. The 'The Radio Times' billing was 'The London Repertory Players present' to Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, etc. These programmes were nearly all one-act plays and sometimes they went 'on tour', broadcasting first to one station and later, the same production, to another.
So four of the ten productions on the Birmingham station were from the London Players. The totals were about the same for the five others. That makes an estimated total of sixty further productions to add to the 2LO plus Daventry total of 92. Established members of the London Radio Repertory Players now included Henry Oscar, Michael Hogan, Victor Lewisohn, Philip Wade, Theo Charlton, Barbara Couper and Phyllis Panting. Howard Rose acted twice in 1926.
'Five Birds in a Cage' (Elizabeth Jennings) was broadcast (23 July 1926 2LO London 8-8.30) (see 3.1.13 for the 1923 broadcast) and 'The White Chateau' (Reginald Berkeley) again, directed by R.E. Jeffrey, though no actors listed (16 August 1926 London and Daventry, S.B. all stations 8-9.30). Howard Rose was now credited, alone, not only for presenting (producing), but also from January 1926 in the following way:
Thursday 7 January 1926 London 7.40-9
'A Pickwick Party' (Stanley C. West)
A Dickens Dream Fantasy
presented by R.E. Jeffrey
produced by Howard Rose
A new Booking Department was started to deal with the average of one hundred artists a week being broadcast in all programmes. Rex Palmer of the Programme Department explained in an article about auditions, 'Wanted: New Radio "Stars"':
a special Booking Department, which is intended to be a source of suggestions and supply to those who arrange and build. As most musical and dramatic talent gravitates to London this department also supplies artists to our Provincial Stations, according to their requirements.
There is still plenty of room for wireless stars and particularly for wireless entertainers. .. The one fact to be kept in mind is that we have to please what is virtually a blind audience. It so often happens that artists with considerable experience in other fields come to us without realizing this fact, or understanding what is required.
'The Radio Times' 15 January 1926 p. 148
Main Index | Chapter 6 Index | Section 6.3