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Saturday Night Theatre

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Saturday Night Theatre
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Home station
Original release3 April 1943 (1943-04-03) –
29 June 1996 (1996-06-29)

Saturday Night Theatre was a long-running radio drama strand on BBC Radio 4 and its predecessor, the BBC Home Service. The strand showcased feature-length, middlebrow single plays on Saturday evenings for more than 50 years, having been launched in April 1943.[1] The plays featured in the strand included stage plays, book adaptations and original dramatisations. For most of its history, programmes ran for 90 minutes and were largely entertainment-centred, such as thrillers, comedies and mysteries.

Saturday Night Theatre was noted as the major drama of the week on BBC Radio 4, until it was scrapped as a programme strand in 1996. Audiences reached a peak of 6.75 million in 1955, but by the end the average audience levels had fallen to between 50,000 and 100,000 - although with another 500,000 listening to the Monday afternoon repeat.[2] Shorter plays continued to be broadcast on Radio 4 on Saturday evenings from 1996 until the relaunch of the channel's schedule in April 1998 by James Boyle, when single dramas were removed from the Saturday evening schedule.[3]

Since 1998, the main weekly play on the station has been The Saturday Play, a daytime programme that runs for 60–90 minutes. There have since been campaigns to bring back Saturday Night Theatre,[4] but in the context of BBC budget cuts, that have included the 2010 axing of Radio 4's Friday Play (established in 1998, when Saturday Night Theatre was abolished),[5] any return looks unlikely.

Many plays, mainly from the 1940s (when they weren't actually recorded) all the way through to the early 70s, are considered to be lost or destroyed. The earliest surviving audio is currently The Corn is Green, by Emlyn Williams, adapted for radio by T. Rowland Hughes, which was broadcast on 27 January 1945, though re-discovered archive copies are still being found.[6]

First ten episodes



  1. ^ "Saturday Night Theatre Home Page". Saturday-night-theatre.co.uk. 3 April 1993. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
  2. ^ Donavan, Paul. The Radio Companion (1991), p. 238
  3. ^ "BBC revises new Radio 4 schedule - News". The Independent. 17 September 1998. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Saturday Night Theatre Home Page". Saturday-night-theatre.co.uk. 3 April 1993. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
  5. ^ Matthew Hemley (10 March 2010). "The Stage / News / Exclusive: Radio 4 to axe Friday Play". Thestage.co.uk. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
  6. ^ The Corn is Green, archived copy at RadioEchoes