Mutiny on the Bounty IRDP for LBC London and NPR USA 1988

David Peart in costume as Lieutenant William Bligh. Picture taken by James Horton at the Cutty Sark, Greenwich 1988.

Mutiny on the Bounty was one of the first follow-up productions by IRDP for LBC after Pepys and was written and produced in the spring of 1988. It was the first of IRDP’s productions bought by NPR (National Public Radio) USA for distribution by satellite to their affiliate stations on the NPR Playhouse genre and as result was heard throughout the union from New York City, Seattle, and Dallas to San Francisco.

The production was first transmitted in 5 minute episodes on the Steve Jones lunch-time programme, was edited into four half hour episodes for NPR and later constituted two commercial one hour transmissions with a total running time of 1 hour and 53 minutes.

The first 2 minutes of the Mutiny on the Bounty (cassette edition 1990)

Tim Crook and Richard Shannon worked as a writing, directing and producer team and shifted the main emphasis in each role according to the production. Tim Crook did most of the research and writing in such a journalistic style that on the day that the actors convened to perform in the LBC studios (by this time the London station had provided access time on Saturdays and Sundays during the day to their main stereo on-air studios) he was still bashing away on the type-writer in the newsroom to produce scripts for the new scenes that were taken up to the editorial offices on the ground floor of the Gough Square building where actors read-through and rehearsed.

Inside title pages of 'The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty Its Cause and Consequences' by Lieutenant-Colonel Batty

Tim used as the main source for his research, the first published book on the event- an original edition from 1835, signed by the original owner and at the time on sale in an Antiquarian bookshop for £45.

Richard assembled a fine cast of experienced British radio actors: David Peart as Lieutenant William Bligh; Scott Cherry as First Mate Fletcher Christian; Bunny Reid as The Fiddle Michael Byrne, Mike McCormack as the surgeon Thomas Huggan; Tessa Wojtczak as Nessie Heywood, and Richard himself as Midshipman Peter Heywood.

The production process involved direction and performance in front of stereo coincidental microphones and cardioid narration microphones in the studio and eight channel multi-tracking with sound effects and music in a digital master postproduction suite in Manningtree, Essex.

When the production was selected for sale in an exclusive range of audio cassettes for W.H Smiths, IRDP commissioned Robert Whysall Gibbs to perform the violin music heard  on these archive extracts and Tim and Richard wrote, composed and directed Russell Richardson, Mike Shannon and Ian Bamforth to sing the sea shanties.

Inlay card for the Stereo Theatre edition of 'Mutiny on the Bounty' first published in 1990.

The sound design won a silver medal for Best Sound Editing at the 1989 International Radio Festival of New York, and a sample episode was one of several five minute dramas that secured a Sony/Radio Academy commendation for Most Creative use of radio in 1989.

This is the extract entered for the awards received in 1989

The production was cued and marketed on radio and cassette with the following description:

An original interpretation of the most famous mutiny in seafaring history.

The listener is taken into the cabins of an eighteenth century ship travelling around the world, to places barely explored. This was an adventure which has its modern paralells in space travel, but the risks were perhaps greater. Ships were no more than wooden structures held together with rope, nails and tar depending on the wind for power.

Lieutenant William Bligh was commissioned to lead an expedition to Tahiti. His mission was to collect samples of the ‘Bread Fruit Tree’ so that they could be planted in the West Indies and provide a cheap staple food for the slave population.

Writers Tim Crook and Richard Shannon has sought to present a balanced picture of the explosive rivalry between William Bligh and his first mate Fletcher Christian. They focus on the equivocal nature of Bligh’s character. In many films and book he has been portrayed as a coarse and bullying captain with a sadistic tendency to use the Cat-O-Nine Tails. But he was also a brilliant navigator and had ideas about improving the conditions of seamen, which were far ahead of his time.

Tim Crook and Richard Shannon were both committed trade unionists and when forming IRDP reached out to the craft unions to establish and agree professional rates for actors and writers that were proportionate to the budget made available by LBC in 1987 and 1988. LBC paid £40 per 5 minute episode making a total of £200 for 25 minutes of audio drama. IRDP negotiated agreements and draft contracts with the actors’ union Equity and the writer’s union, The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. Tim was a member of the National Union of Journalists and Richard a member of Equity and later the Directors’ Guild of Great Britain.

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