Sound-Stories: Audio Drama and Adaptation

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Although it is one of the most neglected fields of performance culture, throughout its history audio drama has been prolific and impactful. Radio has produced adaptations of fiction which has been as (in)famous as Mercury Theatre on the Air’s ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast (1938) and as monumental as the BBC’s complete Sherlock Holmes (1989-98). In the twenty-first century, the internet has created a new era of audio drama: there has never been a more fluid range of options through which we can consume network radio and, in addition to this, there are websites streaming archival materials as well as podcasts of experimental or amateur work. In short, there has never been a richer time to be an audio drama ‘listener’.
Adaptation has been a central practice in audio drama since the beginning of radio: indeed, the creation of ‘original’ plays for radio is a trend that emerged sometime after plays appeared on radio, which were initially entirely adaptive. This chapter will explore different types of adaptation in audio drama. An enormous range of stage plays, novels and films of every kind of genre have been chosen as sources for audio adaptation. Moreover, the format of these plays has been as diverse as the genres that have been selected. From readings and audiobooks to the complexity of binaural and interactive productions, audio listeners can experience one-off dramas and serializations, differing in length and ambition. In terms of strategy, audio adaptation can be found to use the strategies of allusion or hybridization as much as a more conventional or ‘completist’ approach. A range of case studies will be used for analysis to ensure that the topic is explored in the most diverse way: as well as classic works of radio drama and output from the major radio networks, the essay will also feature analysis of independent podcast audio drama.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Adaptation
EditorsDennis Cutchins, Katja Krebs, Eckart Voigts
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)9781315690254
ISBN (Print)9781138915404
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018


  • audio drama
  • radio drama
  • adaptation

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