It is true that South Africans still listen to the radio frequently, but with most stations being commercial and mainly focused on talk and music, radio drama is slowly but surely fading. Radio drama really comes in handy if you are a student, though, as many of us don’t have TVs and often find ourselves running low on good series around May.
Radio dramas would be the perfect solution to these problems but they are very difficult to come across. Luckily, UP’s drama department still offers radio as a subject to its second- and third-year students and one of the sections in the course is radio drama. Third-year drama student Tina Redman, who is enrolled in the radio course, noted that “[radio dramas are] becoming less relevant in more privileged, developed countries,” and that “poorer societies still rely on radio for entertainment.”
Community-based radio stations and the SABC still put a lot of time and effort into producing radio dramas for those who still find it to be a valuable means of entertainment. Since the early 2000s radio dramas have been experiencing a revival in the form of popular TV shows being restructured for radio. These shows include Doctor Who and The Twilight Zone. Radio dramas also provide a good testing ground for future TV scriptwriters.
Today radio drama has moved solidly into the realm of podcasts. Certain serialised podcasts, such as the science fiction show Welcome to Night Vale, the crime podcast Serial and the aptly titled Radio Drama Revival, which aims to showcase work by both amateur and professional producers from around the world, have gained immense popularity.
While radio dramas may be fading on the airwaves they are still alive on the internet as part of a rapidly growing platform for storytellers.
Image: Shen Scott