Audio Drama… Without Words: The Revenge (Stories for the Ear #9)

This one’s actually got no cover art, so I had to improvise. There’s a scene from the show that one might imagine to look like this. Anyway, that’s not even the point of this post. A few years ago, a friend of mine commented on my wierd obsession with both silent films and radio shows, and as a joke, he said, “Well, can you find a silent radio show?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it might actually be possible to make a radio show without words and only sound effects. So I looked for two and a half years, searching for such a show. Hadn’t somebody tried it? Lo and behold, dear reader, after all that time of looking, I finally found it. And it’s this very show, “The Revenge”. 

“The Revenge: a radio play without words” aired in 1978, a one-off story running for about 25 minutes. The play was written and stars Andrew Sachs, who was in the 70s British sitcom “Fawlty Towers”. He wondered why radio shows had to be as talkative as they were, and as silly as this sounds, I’ve wondered the same thing myself. I’ve talked before about action in audio with shows like “Speed Gibson” and “Dixie Stenburg”, but I found those shows because I was looking for them. I wanted to hear something other than 25 minutes of straight talking. Even the most successful radio sitcoms broke up the dialogue with the live audience laughing. So the idea of no dialogue in a radio show may seem far-out, but I find that I can relate with Sachs’ motivation to make “The Revenge”.

The plot of the show is essentially an escaped convict narrowly escaping the police, killing somebody who might turn him in, and then feeling bad and turning himself in. “You’ve spoiled the whole thing!” you may be saying. But I found that it was helpful to know the story before hearing it. I did, so I can’t say whether or not I would have understood what was happening in the show without it, but it sure made things easier to interpret. For one example, it helps to know that the British police number is 999, which the convict dials at the end on a rotary phone, which is the only way the listener knows he’s turning himself in. I never would have known who he was calling had I not read up on the play beforehand.

“The Revenge” is really experimental more than anything, and it’s more about hearing how the sequence of events is conveyed than about experiencing a satisfying story. There are eleven actors in the play, but none of them say any real words; they only make noises and shout things that are supposed to be unintelligible words. Naturally, the reception to this play was widely varied, as some were able to follow the whole plot and called the play a masterpiece, while others didn’t get it at all, labelling it as merely a collection of randomly-placed sound effects. I find it to be a really cool play that is totally worth hearing. Plus, it was one of the first audio programs to use binaural sound, which is the mixing of sounds in stereo, so when listening with headphones or earbuds, the listener can hear things moving from left to right or vice versa. It’s really neat.

If you want to hear a totally one-of-a-kind audio drama, go ahead and give “The Revenge” a try. As far as I can find, it’s only available in one place: on Soundcloud.com. If you do give it a listen, let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Happy listening!

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