The National Library of Wales hosted an event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the play, ‘Comedy of Danger’ (1924).

Written by novelist Richard Hughes, author of ‘High Wind in Jamaica’ and ‘Fox in the Attic’, it is reputed to be the first drama for radio to be commissioned and broadcast by the BBC.

‘Comedy of Danger’ first aired on 15 January 1924, broadcast from London, and was performed again two months later, on 15 March, when it was broadcast from Cardiff.

The 12-minute play is set in a Welsh coal mine and features the hymn tune ‘Aberystwyth’, making the National Library, which houses the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, an ideal setting for this commemoration.

The largely forgotten and rarely staged play was brought to life by students from Aberystwyth University’s Theatre film and Television department as part of their module on writing Audio Drama, whose acting captured the thrill and terror of three visitors trapped in a collapsed gallery of the mine that rapidly fills with water, threatening to drown them.

Students also provided the sound effects, with supervision from senior technical instructor Chris Stewart, that transported audiences to the site of the disaster. The students taking part were Archie Rix, Rory Young, Amelie Commins, Ella Moreland, Rhys Dell, Niamh Scrimgeour, Michael Freeman, Nathan Montieth, Lucy Knowles.

The mine, as event co-coordinator Harry Heuser pointed out in his introductory talk, is more than a setting. It is a character in the play and a stand-in for Wales. Hughes, though born in England, was proud to date his Welsh heritage back to the time of the Tudors, and he used the occasion of the broadcast to draw attention to living and working conditions in Wales.

The play was performed live, and the event live streamed. Those tuning in remotely were asked to turn out their lights, just as they were on the day of the original broadcast. The audience assembled at the National Library listened in darkness.

Co-organised by playwright and research fellow at Aberystwyth University, Lucy Gough, the event, titled ‘Danger 1924/2024’, included informative talks by Alison Hindell, Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor for Drama and Fiction, and Siân Nicholas, Professor of Modern British History and long-time researcher on the history of the BBC.

‘Danger 1924/2024’ was a collaboration between the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth University, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, and the BBC.