Today I had a couple of guests at Radio 2 and asked them if they wanted to look around the main building, Broadcasting House, which is just next door. I took them to what the signage said was the RADIO DRAMA STUDIO. It sounded promising.
The place was empty. And here’s the first thing you notice – different types of stairs! Why? Because in some radio dramas the actors have to go up hard stairs (council offices, hospitals, prisons) and in others they are carpeted (for ordinary homes, I guess, or cinemas). These steps are for sound effects.
As is almost everything. The hob mess is not for cooking. No, it’s for the drama where something happens at the kitchen sink. The saucepans have definitely been thrown at some point, I could tell.
Multiple doorbells. Chime = older person’s house. Beep = tower block. The one in the middle sounded more like a heart monitor, which it could easily be. Someone was paid to make this once!
A bell is not any old bell. A phone is not any old phone. There is a difference on the radio between a black phone and a green phone, I promise. Oh BBC, I do love you.
Here you see through to the place where the producers sit. The clock is the newest thing in the room: digital made to to look analogue. It is also the least interesting thing.
Keys, cards, coconuts. See what else you can spot in the drama-drawers.
Bedroom doors, front doors. They are all here just for the sounds they make. I love the little details: the knockers on the scarlet door are held in place with elasticated cable so they don’t rattle if the door just needs to be opened or shut in a scene.
Someone has painstakingly transplanted gear from 50 years ago from one studio to another to another, so although we are firmly in 2016 in a spankingly renovated BBC HQ, somehow this little corner speaks powerfully of the past. Many great actors have picked up a prop in this room, turned it in front of their faces and and uttered the line:
What’s THIS for?