Radio review: Black Velvet by Tony Ramsay

For a short time only Tony Ramsay’s radio play Black Velvet is on the BBC iplayer.  This is one of my favourite radio plays, and is also a great example of how incredibly the horror genre can work on radio.

Come into my parlour…

The forty-five minute play follows Master Richard and servant girl Annie, as they are alone in Thoresbey Hall, where Master Richard compels Annie to play at being mistress of the house.

What Black Velvet demonstres so well is the real intimacy of radio, which has lead it to being an enduring medium no matter how technologically eclipsed it is.  It’s not horror’s sexualised intimacy as in the creepy vampire voice whispering temptation in beautiful virgins ear.  It’s intimacy of character and mind.  Because of the lack of visuals you have to make them up in your own head, and that is the snuggest place any story can ever fit.  It’s also the most scary.

In a few short scenes we gain a lot of knowledge about Master Richards psychological state, it’s frailty and his background.  Over the course of the play we become uniquely entangled in Annie’s plight.  It’s as though we have been welcomed into parts of these characters lives and predicaments that we could only witness if we were really there, really part of the story, as much as the characters within it.

When you come across a really well written piece of radio it always feels as though it is speaking uniquely to you, not at you, but speaking right inside of you.  Everything else fades away.  If you’re only going to listen to one piece of radio this week, this well measured, paced, characterised and structured piece should be it.  I recommend listening in the dark.

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