The Chilliwack Players Guild is tackling something they’ve never done before — a radio play with no stage acting, no costumes and no script memorization.
But it’s the story of how the radio play, An Affair of Honour, came to the guild that’s even more interesting.
It was written by Austin Stone in the UK and was originally broadcast live by the BBC in 1953. Stone was a crime novelist and BBC playwright from 1936 to 1955. All of his work was based on true stories.
When he died in 1979, a large box of paperwork was given to one of his sons. That son died in 1987 and 16 years later, the box was handed over to Ed Stone in Chilliwack (Austin’s younger son), who put it in his basement and forgot about it for 11 years.
In 2014, Ed was working on his family tree. He had recently joined the Sardis Genealogy Group when he finally opened up the box in search of his father’s birth certificate.
There in the box, amid notes and letters, were two unpublished book manuscripts and nine radio play scripts his father had written.
Ed was chatting with fellow Sardis Genealogy Group member, Astrid Beugeling, who’s also a member of the Chilliwack Players Guild, and told her about his father’s radio plays. Beugeling was fascinated.
Eager to bring a radio play to the stage, she offered the idea to her guild friends who were also keen.
“We had the play reading and everybody loved it. It sounded great,” says Beugeling. “If it’s successful, he has more and I would like to produce more. It would be awesome if we could do all those (radio) plays.”
“Unfortunately, especially with the BBC, they never recorded these. It was done live, straight out to the world, and then gone,” says Stone.
An Affair of Honour is based on a true story about Lola Montez (played by Susan Shattock), a well known Irish actress and dancer, who in 1844, while living in Paris, France, had an ‘affair’ with composer Franz Liszt and a ‘dalliance’ with Three Musketeer’s author, Alexandre Dumas (Doug Wickers). While in Paris she formed a romance with newspaper owner Charles Dujarier (Larry Hamm), who while drunk during a party, was challenged to a dual by Rosemond de Beauvallon (Ralph Jones). As a result, Dujarier was shot and killed.
“It’s so unusual to be reading out a radio play which would normally be done in a studio with no audience at all,” says Ed Stone. “People haven’t done this for 50 years. It’s almost like vinyl has come back. The beauty of a radio play is you close your eyes and you have to imagine.”
There are 13 in the cast for An Affair of Honour plus sound effects by Dave Stephen. The piece is directed by Beugeling and produced by Debra Archer.
Stone has the honour of narrating his father’s radio play.
“Funnily enough, as I was going through it, I could almost hear my dad talking. The way he wrote was the way he’d talk. So it was quite emotional for me,” says Stone.
By the time the radio play hits the stage, the cast will have only had four rehearsals under their belt.
There’s nothing to really “see” in An Affair of Honour. There will be no stage acting — the cast will be sitting at a long table, facing the audience, and reading directly from their scripts. Everyone will be dressed in black.
“We don’t always use our perceptual (abilities) properly — everything (sounds, visuals, etc.) is going all at once. If you sit quietly and close your eyes, your hearing goes right up,” says Stone.
It’s great for people who are visually impaired who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre, he adds.
Also in the box, Stone found two of his father’s unpublished novel manuscripts, one of which he had published.
Missing, Murder Suspected is a crime novel based around a trilogy of true crime events: ‘Love and Hate amongst the Chickens’ was publicly known as The Chicken Run Murder of 1924 where John Norman Throne murdered his fiancé Elsie Cameron; ‘A House of Horror’ was based on the Dr. Buck Ruxton jig-saw murders of 1935; and ‘Four Sacks for a Shroud’ is about the Luton Sack murder of 1943 where, during the Second World War, London firefighter Bertie Manton was driven into a killing rage by his wife Rene.
Missing, Murder Suspected will be for sale at An Affair of Honour for $20 (paperback) or $30 (hardcover).
Tickets for the radio play are $10 and can be purchased at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca or by calling 604-391-7469. It will be round-table seating and the show includes coffee, tea, and sweets.
An Affair of Honour is about 45 minutes long and will only run for one show on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 1 p.m. in the Rotary Hall Studio Theatre at the Cultural Centre.
This time, it’s going to be recorded.
For more, go to austinstonetruecrime.com.