BBC World Service: Pontypool [the radio drama]

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BBC World ServiceThe BBC World Service commissions an annual collection of new radio plays from around the world each year. They call it “Worldplay” and this year’s theme was “science.” Entries came in from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the USA and Canada. It was Canada’s entry that has drawn my ear. Not only because it is Science Fictional (and Horror-ish) but also because it happens to be related to a movie that I told you radio drama fans would probably dig. Here’s a CBC Edmonton review of the movie |MP3| (now on DVD). Perhaps this Pontypool radio drama would have been broadcast on CBC Radio One too, had not the CBC radio drama department been virtually mothballed. Luckily, the BBC and ABC Radio National seem interested in airing new Canadian radio drama even if CBC itself isn’t.

Now for a few caveats. As the Horror Squad blog points out this is not, strictly speaking, a new recording but rather a radio drama created by editing the movie’s dialogue and sound effects tracks. Ultimately, this does hurt the piece; it would have been better to have had these terrific actors in the studio to recreate their performances (as was done by the likes of Lux Radio Theatre). But to my ears this edit is good, if not the ideal. Here’s what Horror Squad said:

“This is actually not a new recording, but simply the original audio of the film re-cut as a play. If you haven’t seen the film, I’d highly recommend you do before giving it a complete listen. As fantastic as the audio side is, one of the best things about the film is Bruce McDonald’s [he’s the film’s director] ability to visually trap you within the confines of the radio station, which is something I fear this 40 minute shorter take on the material is without.”

I myself have a couple factoids about Pontypool the radio drama. I’ll throw out there. First, this AD has a different ending than does the film. Second, it’s substantially abridged. The movie runs 97 minutes, with dialogue running over the opening and closing credits; whereas the AD runs only 53 minutes. The AD’s end credits also, by the way, say that Pontypool, was directed by Gregory J. Sinclair as a production for CBC. This is news to me considering I haven’t heard it broadcast on CBC radio this year, or even announced for the fall. Sinclair, incidentally, is the producer of CBC Radio’s last standing radio drama series, Afghanada. Have a listen to Pontypool. It’s a very Canadian zombie story. I really liked it a lot!

BBC World Service - Pontypool by Tony BurgessPontypool
By Tony Burgess; Performed by a full cast
Streaming Audio – Approx. 58 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC World Service / Worldplay
Broadcast: June 21, 2009
“Shock jock Grant Mazzy has, once again, been kicked-off the Big City airwaves and now the only job he can get is the early morning show at CLSY Radio in Pontypool Ontario, which broadcasts from the basement of the small town’s only church. What begins as another boring day of school bus cancellations, due to yet another massive snow storm, quickly turns deadly when reports start piling in of people developing strange speech patterns and evoking horrendous acts of violence start piling in. But there’s nothing coming in on the news wires. Is this really happening? Before long, Grant and the small staff at CLSY find themselves trapped in the radio station as they discover that this insane behaviour taking over the town is actually a deadly virus being spread through the English language itself. Do they stay on the air in the hopes of being rescued or, are they in fact providing the virus with its ultimate leap over the airwaves and into the world? Based on the novel Pontypool Changes Everything. Starring Stephen McHattie, Lisa Poole, Georgina Reilly, Rick Roberts, Hrant Alianak and Daniel Fathers .

This is also available in MP3 format via along with more of the Worldplay dramas.

And, for australian listeners without torrent capability, via ABC Radio National |STREAMING|.

[via Monster Rally]

Posted by Jesse Willis

P.S. I think perhaps it’s time for CBC to sell the J. Michael Straczynski radio drama series that they produced and never aired, to a station that will actually broadcast it! Maybe BBC:WS?

7 thoughts to “BBC World Service: Pontypool [the radio drama]”

  1. I caught a piece of the “Pontypool” radio play a couple of weeks ago on CBC Radio. I’ve been wanting to read the novel and see the film ever since I heard of its existence. For now, this radio play will have to suffice.

  2. Someone in CBC has kindly informed me that CBC Radio aired this Pontypool radio drama on August 24th and 31st, 2009. I’m still not sure of time or show.

  3. Five years later…yes the radio version aired in two parts on CBC Radio.
    Some backstory: Bruce Tony and I discussed a radio drama adaptation of a film version of Tony’s novel (phew!) and set to work on a 60 minute version. We had Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle in to read the first draft, and it was spectacular. We mused about creating found footage to complement this ‘last recording’ of Grant Mazzy. The intention was always to use the voice recordings of the radio script embedded in the feature film to create the radio play, and we actually stuck by the original ending as Grant gradually (******). There was quite a bit of new recording for the radio version. I still feel that this production is one of those rare instances when a cross-platform collaboration served the strengthen each interation.

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