Radio play revival at St Norbert College as COVID stymies annual theatre production

05 April 2022

The golden age of radio plays has had a renaissance at St Norbert College after the COVID pandemic put paid to the school’s annual production.

But instead of being broadcast from an old wireless, the radio dramas are being streamed through the internet – and students are realising newfound theatrical skills in the process.

St Norbert College teacher Kerri Hilton said she had turned to radio plays as a way of keeping drama alive in the school as well as students and teachers COVID-safe.

“It occurred to me that radio plays could be a way for students to expand their creativity in the absence of a live stage performance,” Miss Hilton said.

Radio plays were popular entertainment in the 1920s, 30s and 40s with serials, comedies and dramas consuming the airwaves.

Two years ago, the school was forced to cancel The Sound of Music because COVID hit, but last year managed to stage Cinderella in between lockdowns. This year, Blood Brothers was pegged for the school stage, but it was thwarted with the latest Omicron wave.

“I raised the idea of radio plays with the students and they jumped at the opportunity,” Miss Hilton said.

“In a lot of ways, it’s opened up their minds beyond the limitations of a stage production where they might have only played one part.”

“They’ve really embraced it and have enjoyed the opportunity to develop new skills like using different voices to convey different characters.

“In a lot of ways, it’s opened up their minds beyond the limitations of a stage production where they might have only played one part. Now, they’re taking on multiple roles and changing their voices to reflect a variety of characters.”

Twice a week, the students use the school’s podcasting equipment to rehearse and professionally record the radio plays. Each student has their own microphone and headset and sit socially distanced in Xanten Theatre to verbally perform the old-time radio script.

The group’s first radio play was a gritty suspense mystery, Sorry, Wrong Number. Written in the 1940s by American screenwriter Lucille Fletcher, the story tells of a controlling heiress who – due to crossed wires in a telephone glitch – overhears a conversation about a plan to commit murder.

Edited by Miss Hilton with dramatic effects, the audio drama runs for 25 minutes and is available on Spotify. Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie radio dramas will also be performed this year.

In addition, the broadcasting skills are also giving students opportunities to create podcasts.

St Norbert College radio plays and podcasts

For free access to the St Norbert College radio plays and podcasts

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