Sight Unseen
Beckett, Pinter, Stoppard, and Other Contemporary Dramatists on Radio

By Elissa S. Guralnick

“These absorbing discussions cast a strong light on the nature of radio’s appeal for playwrights as different as Barker and Beckett, Stoppard and Rudkin. If there were any doubt about the value and fascination of radio drama as a form in its own right it would be put to flight by Elissa Guralnick’s original, penetrating, and very readable study.”

Katharine Worth, The Review of English Studies

“This often brilliant study—subtle, remarkably capacious, and very well-written—sets out to reclaim for us the potentialities of aural art.”

Thomas R. Whitaker, English Language Notes

“Guralnick’s book is a pleasure to read, lucidly written, and free of jargon, without foregoing depth of perception, complexity, and range of thought…. This is a valuable contribution to the field of drama, as well as radio drama, and Guralnick generously meets her self-imposed objectives.”

Johan Callens, Essays in Theatre

“This is a book which should prove essential reading for anyone remotely interested in radio drama and, even more vitally, for those people who think of radio as offering little more than a watered-down version of the play on the stage…. This is an important book, moving discussion of radio drama into new territory.”

John Bull, New Theatre Quarterly

In Sight Unseen radio drama, a genre traditionally dismissed as popular culture, is celebrated as high art. The radio plays discussed here range from the conventional (John Arden’s Pearl) to the docudramatic (David Rudkin’s Cries from Casement), from the curtly conversational (Harold Pinter’s A Slight Ache) to the virtually operatic (Robert Ferguson’s Transfigured Night), testifying to radio drama’s variety and literary stature. Two of the plays included in this study pose aesthetic questions—the role of art in politics (Howard Barker’s Scenes from an Execution), and the nature of artistic excellence (Tom Stoppard’s Artist Descending a Staircase).

Guralnick contends that well-crafted radio plays tend to meld to their medium so naturally that they cannot be transferred to the theater or to film without being diminished. Each play is thus shown to exploit, to special effect, one of radio’s fundamental features: its invisible stage (Barker and Stoppard), its affinity to music (Ferguson and Beckett), its ability to imitate the mind’s subjectivity (Kopit and Pinter), its association with world events through features and the news (Rudkin). As for the question of radio’s relation to the theater, the issue is engaged in the work of John Arden, who dares to portray a theatrical stage on the airwaves, while intimating that the radio offers contemporary playwrights an incomparable boon: creative conditions roughly equivalent to those enjoyed by Shakespeare.

Elissa S. Guralnick is Professor of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Co-Director of the University Writing Program.



Retail price: $34.95, S.
Release date: Dec. 1995
256 pages
Rights: World