Saturday, 3 January 2009

"Yet across an immense ethereal gulf..."

The 1938 radio broadcast of Orson Welle's version of War of the Worlds is famous throughout the media and art world for allegedly causing mass panic amongst all those who heard it. According to wikipedia there were 12,500 newspaper articles about the broadcast or its impact, while Adolf Hitler cited the panic as "evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy."

Whether you believe in the panic or not it's a truly brilliant piece of radio. It utilises its own form, including newsflashes, weather reports, the opinions of experts, the voices of an outside broadcaster and ordinary people, to make an intense and suspense-filled drama. I especially like the ending, where after the studio broadcaster finally falls silent, (after reporting people running and diving into the East River 'like rats,') another voice is heard, an amateur radio operator: "2X2L calling CQ ... Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there ... anyone?"

I'm currently using the broadcast in a stage play I'm writing for my creative writing portfolio. It takes place on Halloween, October 30 1938, the date when the broadcast went out and will use only one location, the living room of an American family living in New Jersey where the Martians land. The play is really going to focus on the different reactions of the family members when they believe a real Martian invasion is happening outside their window.

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