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Criterion Theatre
The War of the Worlds: The 1938 Radio Script (2017)
Howard E. Koch (adapted from the novel by H.G. Wells)
Fri 27th October to Sat 28th October
Memory

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS: THE 1938 RADIO SCRIPT by Howard E. Koch

The Radio Broadcast that terrified America : Live  

Director – Brian Emeney
Production Photos
Cast
Commander/ Stranger – Matt Baxter
Pierson/ Orson Welles – Brian Emeney
Main Announcer – Annie Gay
Wilmuth/ Captain/ Officer/ Operator 5 – Trevor Gay
Policeman/ Smith/ Gunner/ Operator – Michael Hammond
Announcer 2/ Operator 1 – Chris Ingall
Phillips/ Operator 4 – Debra Relton-Elves
Announcer 3/ Secretary/ Observer/ Operator 3 – Andrew Tyrer
Floor Manager – Stella Gabriel
Crew
Stage Manager – Stella Gabriel
Sound Design & Operation – Dave Cornish
Wardrobe – Pauline Petros
Lighting Design & Operation – Karl Stafford
Artwork Design – Emma Withers
Wardrobe – Pam Coleman
Props – Les Rahilly
The Play

Join us in the “Criterion Studio” as we recreate an infamous moment in radio history: the Orson Welles company’s live US radio broadcast of H.G. Wells's sci-fi classic “The War of the Worlds” on Hallowe’en 1938.

It was reported at the time that the broadcast caused chaos as listeners across America believed that the radio dramatisation was in fact “live news” and that the reports of aliens attacking US cities were real.

For the Criterion recreation of this extraordinary live event, Brian Emeney has assembled a cast to play Orson Welles's actors reading Howard E. Koch's original radio script, while our sound engineers play in “live” sound effects.

We invite you to join the “studio audience”: as we bring you as close as possible to the reality of a live recording session, and as H.G. Wells's alien machines threaten to take over the world.

The two script-in-hand performances of this 1938 classic are timed to be as close as possible to Hallowe’en 2017, for what we hope will be an authentically spooky seasonal treat.

We will be “live on air” in the Criterion auditorium at 7.30pm on Friday October 27th and Saturday October 28th.

 

For more information about the production please contact the director Brian Emeney at bjemeney@aol.com. or the Artistic Director at artisticdirector@criteriontheatre.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews

The War of the Worlds: the 1938 Radio Script by Howard E. Koch

Review: An hour of frights as legendary radio broadcast is recreated in Coventry

The radio broadcast terrified the USA

NICK LE MESURIER Email Published: 09:15 Wednesday 01 November 2017

Nick Le Mesurier reviews The War of the Worlds at the Criterion Theatre, Coventry

When it was first broadcast on October 30, 1938, Orson Welles’s radio production of The War of the Worlds allegedly caused mass panic, so realistic did the ‘live’ accounts of an alien invasion from Mars seem. Throughout the broadcast, which lasted around an hour, the public listened, horror struck, as one by one whole cities seemed to fall. Switchboards were jammed; the authorities intervened. Far more people were panicked than had actually heard the broadcast. The play was as much in the reaction as in the action.

And now? Well, if this performance of the original studio broadcast is anything to go by, the power of the drama is still as potent as ever. It would have been so easy for it to have been performed as something kitsch, but it’s taken very seriously, and the jam-packed audience were treated to an hour of frights that got them right under their skin.

Brian Emeney is superb as Professor Pierson, the hero of the drama, and as Welles: an immense presence, as Welles was, who literally conducts his actors to bring them in on cue and to recreate the sounds of chaos. The announcers, Annie Gay and Debra Relton-Elves deliver sharp, on the spot descriptions of the growing tension and the carnage. We see the action on stage as it was in the studio on the night, but we hear the conflict in our minds.

The Criterion does a great job in bringing it all to life, even if we have (arguably) a greater awareness of fake news. *

The performances took place on October 27 and 28. Visit www.criteriontheatre.co.uk for details of future productions at the theatre.

The Real Thing
In these days of fake news and possible nuclear Armageddon, there seems hardly a play more suited to the times than the original 1938 production of Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ 'The War of The Worlds'. When it was first broadcast on October 30, 1938, it allegedly caused mass panic, so realistic did the apparently live accounts of an alien invasion from Mars seem. Strange creatures were said to have arrived in metal cylinders and set about destroying Earth’s (or rather America’s) defences, laying waste to New York and much of the continent before succumbing to bacterial infection. Throughout the invasion, which lasted around an hour, the public listened, horror struck, as one by one whole cities fell. The play used documentary techniques, including interviews with local people, experts and militia men, to dramatise the fear many Americans felt at the imminent threat of foreign powers. So vivid was the broadcast that switchboards were jammed as people called each other for news. Far more people were panicked than had actually heard the broadcast or listened to repeated announcements that it was fiction. The play was as much in the reaction as in the action.
 
And now? Well, if this performance of the original script, with us the audience acting as the original studio audience and the actors reading ‘on book’ into the microphone is anything to go by, the power of the drama is still as potent as ever. It would have been so easy for this show to have been performed as something kitsch, but it’s taken very seriously, and the jam-packed audience were treated to an hour of
frights that got them right under their skin.
 
Brian Emeney is superb as Professor Pierson, the hero of the drama, and as Welles: an immense presence, as Welles was, who literally conducts his actors to bring them in on cue and to recreate the sounds of chaos. The announcers, Annie Gay and Debra Relton-Elves deliver sharp, on the spot descriptions of the growing tension and the carnage. We see the action on stage as it was in the original studio, all dressed in 1930s costume and with pin sharp accents, but we hear the conflict in our minds, where we willingly suspend our disbelief and share the fear and confusion.
 
The play was originally broadcast just before Halloween, and its recreation here almost eighty years to the date doesn’t so much show the power of fake news as the propensity for drama to work inside the minds of listeners and viewers. It’s a brilliant conceit, and the Criterion do a great job in bringing it to life.
 
From the comments I overheard afterwards the play has lost nothing of its power to thrill and engage, even though we have (arguably) a greater awareness of fake news.
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