Radio Times/1923/12/14/How Plays Will be Broadcast
How Plays Will be Broadcast.
By Nigel Playfair (in an Interview).
Mr. Nigel Playfair is one of the leading theatrical producers of the day, and among the remarkable and successful plays that he has produced may be mentioned "Polly" and "The Beggar's Opera."
Theatrical producers have many problems to face before a play is staged. As in other industries, the theatrical industry has a variety of interests constantly urging it to go in one direction or another ; but I think the experience of theatrical producers shows that however experimental certain of their efforts may be, ultimate success is awarded by the public to the producer when he has given them what they want.
The chief things to he studied are the views of the consumer, not those of the producer. That is why, in the controversy that has waged regarding the question of broadcasting theatrical performances, I am in favour of free trade in broadcasting. All theatrical productions are not of necessity suitable for broadcast reproduction. but for those that are, I am convinced that it is wrong for theatrical managers to prevent the listening public from hearing the best that can he given.
The broadcasting of The Beggar's Opera and Robert E. Lee, from my own experience, produced no ill effects: on the contrary, I am convinced that many people were induced to visit these productions as a result of hearing parts of them broadcast.
Most new inventions (or the practical application of new discoveries) are invariably regarded with suspicion, chiefly because they are new. The history of mechanical invention, the story of the development of the uses of electricity, the early struggles of the motor industry and the growth of the cinema industry, all testify to this characteristic attitude of certain sections of society towards what is new. Particularly do I remember in the early days of the cinema the feeling among theatrical produces that it was likely to be a rival of the stage. It was thought that the cinema would be able to produce plays just as they were done upon the stage.
I remember once going with the late H. B. Irving to act in one of Mason's plays for the cinema. It was acted just as in the theatre, but it was a failure. It was absolutely reproduced as on the stage. This was the first idea of using the theatre, with its subjects and actors, for the purposes of the cinema.
It took the cinema some time to give good entertainment. They could not reproduce the old stage methods and stage situations. key had to produce their own technique, their own actors and actresses and their own plays! In the case of broadcasting, I am convinced that something similar will happen. It may be that broadcasting will indeed not want to use the theatre in a year or so; certainly they will want to use theatre people, actors and actresses, producers and ideas from people closely associated with theatre craft. But I believe that, ultimately, they will want to do all their entertainments themselves. I cannot believe that the greatest future of wireless telephony lies in the broadcasting of things direct from the theatre.
From my own experience, I am convinced that I could give a far better performance in the broadcasting studio thou I could in my theatre for broadcasting purposes. I should most certainly have to cut a good deal, and alter much of a stage play to make it what I consider a more or less perfect broadcast entertainment.
From the above it will be clear that I do not regard broadcasting as in any way a danger to the theatrical profession. In many respects it will be an aid to the cultivation of public taste for entertainment such as the theatre can give. In other respects I do not think it will influence the theatre either for good or for evil. Rut I do think that more good than evil will accrue to the theatre and to the theatrical profession, particularly as I believe that the developments of broadcasting will give a good deal of employment to our profession.
We can serve the public through broadcasting in a way that no other industry can, for we have behind us experience and knowledge of what constitutes, good entertainment. and these we could place at the disposal, not only or broadcasting as such, but of the public too.
Because I think it in right to share free trade in the entertainment world, and it to wrong to boycott what is new because it in now. I have not supported the attempt to resist broadcasting: It is simply a waste of time to indulge in political quarrels in the theatre make. and the rev of "Protection for the theatre" is futile when raised against the development of wireless telephony, which obviously has come to stay. On the contrary. I think that theatrical managers would do well to accept the inhalation, realising that a now development has taken place. It in certain to be permanent, although it is at present in its infancy. and they should cultivate it for their own enrol and get so much money out of it as possible.
For my own part, I its not believe that the broadcasting of play, will injure the attention at theatres. Personally, I want to hear such things as normally I have not the time to hear—such as speeches by the Prime Minister and the leading members of other political parties, whose decisions are likely to influence my life, and the lives of these about me. I think, therefore, that the time will come when the British Broadcasting Company will set about making its own company of players in its own studio and with its own producer, finding, therefore, much employment for the theatrical profession.
All plays that are broadcast should receive special adoption for that purpose. Everything, ultimately, should to considered from a broadcasting point of view, and all the stage directions will have to be done most deftly. A new craft will be developed, and new methods evolved to make things much less dull through the medium of broadcasting.
Looking into the future, I believe there is a wonderful opportunity for playwrights and others who will direct their abilities to the production of material specially suitable for broadcasting. The cinema produced a special type of author and actor—a special type of artiste—similarly do I believe that broadcasting will develop a now type or craft, and in this respect the public will he fortunate.