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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

COLLECT: Christie's Radio Plays

Updated: Jan 14

The promotional artwork for Personal Call

Agatha Christie independently penned four radio plays and one television play. Obtaining copies of these scripts for one's own reading pleasure is now possible for all but one of the radio plays. The original publications that promoted them can all be found and collected.

The Only Television Play: The Wasp's Nest was first performed on 18th June 1937 on BBC television. It stared Francis Sullivan as Poirot - an actor who had previously portrayed Poirot in the stage production of Alibi. While the script was written in 1932, the play-script was not commercially available until 2019 from Samuel French. However, for a few years prior, Samuel French did make available a 'pre-production manuscript'. For the collector of all things related to The Wasp's Nest - Christie's only television play - you could also seek a copy of the BBC's Radio Times, Issue 715, published 11th June 1937. In it you will find the reference and listing on page 47.

Alternatively, you could seek to find a copy of the pre-production manuscript or first edition 'Acting Edition' script (in print at Samuel French, c.2019). For those who prefer audio books, recordings of the tele-play are available though no known copy of the original BBC production exists.

The 'pre-production manuscript' - now replaced by the 'Acting Edition'.

The Radio Plays: Agatha Christie penned four radio plays - The Yellow Iris, first performed 2nd November 1937; Three Blind Mice, first performed 30th May 1947; Butter In A Lordly Dish, first performed 13th January 1948; and Personal Call, first performed 31st May 1954.

Three Blind Mice: Of these four, Three Blind Mice is not available in any format as a script. While the play was originally only 30 minutes long, it was the basis for the written short story that can be obtained, as well as the longer format play, The Mousetrap - whose play-script is available. For the collector who wants to obtain an item related to this play, you will have to seek a copy of issue 1232 of the BBC's Radio Times, dated 23rd May 1947. On page 23, you will find reference to the programme of events to celebrate Queen Mary's 80th birthday - of which was Christie's "original mystery thriller".

The Yellow Iris: As with the other plays, collectors could seek to find the relevant Radio Times. In this case the reference to the performance of The Yellow Iris is on page 44, Issue 735, dated 31st October 1937. On the page, you will find a wonderful piece of promotional art well worth collecting.

The play-script was first printed as part of Samuel French's 'pre-production manuscript' titled Murder In The Studio which contains the three original radio plays together. While the pre-production manuscript is no longer being produced, each of the three plays can be purchased individually or together as 'Acting Editions' (c.2019) from Samuel French. They technically are still all 'first printings' at this time.

The 'pre-production manuscript' containing all three published radio plays.

Butter In A Lordly Dish: As with The Yellow Iris, collectors seeking a play-script can either try to source a copy of the 'pre-production manuscript' referenced above, or buy an 'Acting Edition' from Samuel French - again still a 'first printing' (c.2019). If you'd like to seek a Radio Times, then source edition 1265, dated 9th January 1948. Of particular note the listing on page 13 states that this radio play is #1 in a new special series of plays written by members of the Detection Club (see our article on this group by clicking here).

The listing for the new 'Detection Club' series... episode 1 by Christie.

Personal Call: The last of the radio plays, Personal Call, can also be obtained directly from Samuel French as an 'Acting Edition' (c.2019) or as part of the Murder in the Studio pre-production manuscript. The Radio Times to seek is issue 1594, dated 28th May 1954. The listing on page 19 still refers to this as a 'Detection Club' event and even has a nice little drawing promoting the play. This is the last Christie radio play.

Values: The good news for collectors is that the 'Acting Editions' are all just regularly priced and thus highly affordable. Buy them to read and round out your collection. The pre-production manuscript may occasionally show up for sale on typical online sites but will still likely sell for well under $100 / £70. Total volume of these pre-production copies is likely under 500 as once interest picks up the play will shift to a perfect bound acting edition (of note: The Secret of Chimneys play is still only available in a manuscript - so grab one now before they convert that play to an Acting edition). The Radio Times issues can also be found at an affordable price, likely $10 / £7 for average quality copies. The real pleasure is in finding the right one. Enjoy the hunt!

For our other articles on collecting plays, click here.

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