The War of the Worlds – Radio Dramatisation
Island Arts Centre, Lisburn N Ireland
Saturday Sept 29th 2012
Contact Island here
“We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.
Yet across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that to minds as ours are to the beasts in the jungle, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us….”
With these simple and chilling lines, I and the rest of the audience at the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn, were transported to the glory days of the radio drama and perhaps the most memorable performance ever recorded.
This was a production of the famous Orson Welles Mercury Production of War of the Worlds. The set was incredibly simple, a number of microphones, a table with various items to be used for sound effects and a keyboard. In walked the Wireless Mystery Theatre Players, dressed in period clothing and haircuts that when compared to the photographs of the original production looked virtually identical.
The broadcast itself was a word for word reproduction of the play with a great addition of period radio advertising. Both the radio play and adverts transported the audience back to 1939, and at times it felt like we were all huddled round a radio, eagerly listening to the frightening broadcasts from the characters.
I have listened to the original broadcast many times and this was a superb performance by all of the participants. Those who had never heard the original were easily caught up in the hysteria, whilst others like myself simply gazed at wonder at the actors and their use of simple but incredibly effective sound effects.
Orson Welles had to apologize for his radio broadcast that caused a country to look out from their windows and porches in panic, and whilst the audience weren’t quite in a panic, they were most certainly entertained.
Forget the big budget recent Spielberg film or the 50s classic, and do not confuse this with the Jeff Wayne musical version narrated by Richard Burton. The original radio production is still the best! And remember folks “That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian. . . it’s Hallowe’en..”