While last year’s Michaelmas Drama production transported audiences to 1930s Spain, this year, like so many subjects and co-curricular activities at the College, Drama adapted to the ‘new normal’ by heading to East Cheam to record a series of radio plays.
Fortunately for Bradfield, one of its ex-pupils happens to be responsible for some of the most famous radio comedies of all time, so, with the full cooperation of his Estate, the Drama Department decided to record its own versions of six Hancock’s Half Hour episodes which originally featured Tony Hancock (G 37-39).
Having established a good relationship with his Estate, The Hancock Appreciation Society and several experts in the Hancock field during a commemorative event held at the College two years ago celebrating the life and legacy of Tony Hancock, Head of Drama Nic Saunders was able to gain permission to re-record a series of classic episodes.
The auditions, held safely outdoors in Greeker early in the term in warmer weather, saw fifty pupils arrive eager to take part. In order to allow as many pupils as possible a chance for stardom it was decided to record six episodes in total. Two would be directed by Nic Saunders, two by our newest Drama teacher Rosie Davies and two by our Drama Grad Alice Knott. With the episodes planned to air during the Christmas period, one of the show’s festive specials was selected alongside a mix of well-known and lesser-known episodes. The episodes chosen were The Blood Donor, The Radio Ham, The Impersonator, The Missing Page, Twelve Angry Men and Bill and Father Christmas.
Seven weeks of intense rehearsals followed and all six episodes were recorded over three nights, under the technical supervision of Oliver Schreiber and Dobek Nowicki, in Big School which was transformed into Bradfield’s answer to the BBC Studios at Lime Grove in the 1950s and 60s.
Each episode had its own cast and, in the style of the original recordings, was recorded in one take with as many sound effects as possible also made live. They each also featured an introduction by comedy historian Robert Ross recorded especially for these recreations.
Instead of broadcasting to a limited Bradfield audience, all six episodes aired to patients at The Royal Berkshire Hospital on Hospital Radio over six days during Christmas week.
“It certainly wasn’t what we’re used to doing” said Nic Saunders, “but they were a lot of fun to rehearse and record. Some elements had dated and we tried to remain true to the originals and there were certainly a lot of laughs as we worked through them proving they really are timeless classics and I’m absolutely certain audiences will find a lot to enjoy.”