Dirk Maggs

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Dirk Maggs, a freelance writer and director working across all media, is principally known for his work in radio, where he evolved radio drama into "Audio Movies," a near-visual approach combining scripts, layered sound effects, cinematic music and cutting edge technology. He pioneered the use of Dolby Surround in BBC Radio. He was among the first nominees for the Directors Guild of Great Britain Outstanding Achievement in Radio Award, and in 2005 he was invited to become one of the first Honorary Fellows of the University of Winchester for his work in the dramatic arts. (The university, when King Alfred's College, was where Maggs trained as a teacher in the late 1970s.)

From 2003 to 2005, Maggs produced new episodes of Douglas Adams' science fiction comedy series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, adapted from the novels based on the original radio series that Adams wrote. The books that Maggs adapted were written after the radio series ended its original run.

Maggs directed many leading actors in often award-winning productions, including Rowan Atkinson, Leslie Nielsen, Christian Slater, Stephen Fry, Jonathan Pryce, Robin Williams, Hugh Laurie, Juliet Stevenson, Jim Broadbent, Patricia Hodge, Alison Steadman, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan.

He co-founded Perfectly Normal Productions Ltd (PNP) with Paul Weir and Richard Adams to create compelling high quality popular audio drama in serialized form for delivery to personal digital players and cell phones.

Biography[edit]

Adapted from the h2g2 website entry for Dirk:

One of the plans for the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series was that it would sound like a rock album. It was the intention that it would feature lots of music and various sound-processing techniques during the course of telling the story. All this was decided before Douglas Adams actually got around to putting pen to paper and writing the thing.

Dirk Maggs has a similar vision. Though he has produced many radio shows, he specialises in the creation of Audio Movies. He aims to create radio with the sense of impact and atmosphere available on the big screen.

These visions are clearly compatible. They must be, as Dirk was Douglas's preferred choice for the job of adapting, producing and directing the last three series concluding The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The programmes (produced with Above the Title Productions for BBC Radio 4) feature much of the original cast from the first two radio series. The first of these new series, adapted from the novel Life, the Universe and Everything, was The Tertiary Phase, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2004, and the latter was a double series adaptation of the final two novels, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless, The Quandary Phase and The Quintessential Phase, broadcast back-to-back in 2005.

Comedy productions[edit]

As well as producing episodes of standard radio comedy series such as The News Huddlines, It's Been a Bad Week and The Russ Abbot Show, Dirk has also been involved in some more unusual comedy projects.

Between 1990 and 1992 he produced three series of Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, an updated version of a 1932 Marx Brothers radio show of the same name. The actors were specifically chosen for their ability to impersonate the Marx Brothers, so that an accurate recreation could be achieved. One of the episodes won the Gold Medal at the New York International Festival.

A similar effort needed to be undertaken for Goon Again in 2001. Produced for the 50th anniversary of The Goon Show, and with the blessing of Spike Milligan, it was a project Dirk had been planning since he recorded At Last The Go On Show, a documentary for the 40th anniversary of the Goons. Early on, Dirk realised that Goon Again would not work without Sir Harry Secombe's very distinctive voice. But Sir Harry declined to take part due to his failing health. Fortunately, his son Andrew Secombe was willing give it a go, and so the cast was arranged around him, with the sons of several other cast members getting involved too, creating, in the words of Dirk, "a genetically-engineered tribute band" to the Goons. The show won the 2002 Best Comedy Award from the Spoken Word Producers Association (now the Audio Publishers Association).

Maggs directed the Johnny Vegas radio series Night Class in 2002. It was a somewhat darker comedy than Dirk's usual output. This show won the Bronze award in the Comedy category of the 2003 Sony Radio Academy Awards.

Science fiction productions[edit]

Early in his career Dirk became known for directing adaptations of comic book storylines. He started in 1988 with the 50th Anniversary Man Of Steel docudrama Superman on Trial, carried on with a 50th birthday tribute to the Dark Knight: Batman: The Lazarus Syndrome. This was followed by The Adventures Of Superman, Batman: Knightfall, The Amazing Spider-Man and his final BBC Radio superhero series, Judge Dredd in 1995. Along the way his production of Superman: Doomsday and Beyond ("Superman Lives" in the US) won the 1994 Audie Award for Best Dramatisation from the American Booksellers Association and Spoken Word Audio of The Year from Publishers Weekly.

In 2005 Time Warner audiobooks re-released Dirk's Batman: Knightfall and Superman Lives in the US, prompting a UK re-release by BBC Audiobooks.

In 1996, Dirk was contacted by 20th Century Fox and asked to create a British-based "parallel-quel" to their summer science fiction blockbuster Independence Day. The resulting programme, Independence Day UK, took place in the same world, and at the same time as the film, but showed a British perspective on the alien invasion. This also won the 1996 Talkie Award for Best Production. The next year, with the blessing of director John Landis, Dirk produced and directed his own adaptation of An American Werewolf in London for BBC Radio One. For this he won the 1997 Talkie Award for Best TV/Film Adaptation.

In 1999 he produced a five-part adaptation of Stephen Baxter's alternative history novel Voyage. The premise is simple. When Apollo 11 reached the moon, JFK (having survived that day in Dallas) set a new target for the space programme: Mars. Voyage is the story of a space-race that never was but so easily might have been. Dirk's adaptation was presented on BBC Radio 4, and received 1999 Talkie Award for Best Use of Music as well as the 2000 Sony Radio Academy Bronze Award for Best Drama.

Other productions[edit]

Dirk directed adaptations of several Agatha Christie short stories for Radio Four, and a production of Bill Naughton's Alfie for the BBC World Service.

He has directed the sound mix on three short 3D films that are played in motion simulator capsules. Dirk has also worked on audiotape adaptations of Terry Deary's Horrible Histories books and is audio director for the Animated Mr Bean television series, which means that everything heard in the show has gone through Dirk's hands at some point.

For the feature-length computer animated version of The Magic Roundabout, Dirk voice-directed principal character sessons with such luminaries as Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone and Joanna Lumley.

Dirk's influence has spread to computer games. He is credited as Voice Director on the highly acclaimed adventure game, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon featuring Rolf Saxon and Sarah Crook.

In late 2005 Dirk set up a production company to create high quality audio drama in serialised form for delivery to personal digital players and cell phones. Following introductions by Robbie Stamp, Douglas Adams's business partner (and Executive Producer of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film), Paul Weir (highly experienced in musical composition, sound design and software development) and Richard Adams (an expert consultant on interactive media) joined forces with Dirk. Their intent was to launch a website dedicated to excellence in audio entertainment, Perfectly Normal Productions (the name is a gentle tribute to Douglas Adams). The plan was to produce and distribute innovative audio productions direct to "the many people who demand something more exciting from their earbuds".

Maggs was reportedly writing a novel for children based on his 1998 BBC Radio 4 Audio Movie, The Gemini Apes. He is scheduled to appear at Eastercon LX, the 60th British National Science Fiction Convention, in 2009.

In 2013 Maggs wrote, directed and dramatised the radio play Neverwhere, based on the television series Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Alphabetical list of Dirk Maggs radio productions[edit]

Detailed list of Radio Plays[edit]

Radio Plays Directed or Produced by Dirk Maggs
Date first broadcast Play Author Cast Synopsis
Awards
Station
Series
29 December 2004
{Recorded on 22 October 2004)
All Fingers and Thumbs[1] Alan Stafford Bill Nighy, Susannah Doyle, Jenny Eclair, Felicity Montagu, Steve Day, Fifi Garfield and Brian Bowles Sign language interpreter Marie wants more deaf people to enjoy the theatre. So does director Tom – but not if it involves a bothersome spot-lit woman waving her arms about on his stage. BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
15 May 2007 Henry's Girls[2] Alan Stafford Robert Glenister, Chloë Annett, Robert Duncan, Nichola McAuliffe, Naoko Mori, Catherine Shepherd, Saskia Butler and Brian Bowles Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas received its premiere at a girls' boarding school in Chelsea in 1689. So why did one of England's most popular composers choose to write his greatest masterpiece for a gaggle of unruly schoolgirls rather than the professional theatre? BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
16 December 2011 Beyond Borders[3][Note 1] Mike Walker Timothy West, Lesley Manville, Daniel Weyman, Philip Jackson, Simon Jones and William Hope 1950, Jean Monnet is charged with planning the reconstruction of France after the Second World War. Monnet's vision is for a radical realignment of Europe, not by one nation asserting itself over another, but by negotiation, integration and ultimately, through political and economic unification. BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play

Notes:

  1. ^ Director: Dirk Maggs; Producer: Richard Clemmow


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