Closure or ending of the play

This is a term from literary criticsm for the ending of the play.

This could be a happy ending, it could wrap everything up - 'closed closure', or leave some plot strands hanging - 'open closure'.


 It is important to signal that the radio plot is coming to an end. Often this is a climax in the plot - a crisis which arrives and is solved.


Play structure in radio plays, especially in standard production, must be carefully and satisfactorily flagged.

 This is a technical requirement of both writing and production. The closure must be related to the narrative.


There could be ongoing plot strands, perhaps in parallel with each other.

 Consider also the difference between comedies and serious plays. It may be useful to talk about a play's 'geometry'.


The radio director can bring particular techniques to mark the closure of a scene. This is the equivalent of the 'sign-off shot' in film.

 Signal the coming 'closure' by referring to, or repeating a key section of action. You bring the listeners back round again to that key scene. This is 'ring composition' (a circle of plot).
 You can use the linking monologue technique. The main character (protagonist) guides the listeners to this part of the play events, by describing them. 'And so that fateful birthday arrived at last - I was forty! And it wasn't as awful as I thought - friends were there ...' (CROSSFADE INTO PARTY)


You use a significant music choice - a pop standard song, which was used at the top of the play and perhaps as a music bridge during it.



We discuss the 'closure' of a novel, a poem, a film.

There are structural and ideological aspects to closure.

See 'recuperation' for an ideological aspect.

Closure can shape much of the plot structure.

This will also depend on genre.

The thriller, for example, is driven onward by the puzzle and the solution, which will be in the closure.
There may be a pattern of ring composition, where the ending will repeat elements of the beginning.

This gives a circularity to the play. There may be an epilogue.

If there is a narrator/commentator, this may frame the play, with prologue-epilogue.

Comments on closure

McWhinnie, THE ART OF RADIO (1959) 133:
How to discover the aural equivalent of a theatrical "curtain". Dialogue which just stops does not end a radio play; the emotional and rhythmical pattern preceding the last line must reconcile us to the conclusion as a rallentando does in music; the exact proportions of the finale will vary according to the size and weight of the whole programme.

Steve Gooch, Writing a Play (1988) 78-9:
One of the commonest mistakes made by novice playwrights is that they end their plays ponderously. .. (they have) the feeling that not enough has been said, or that the play so far hasn't quite clinched what it set out to achieve. This can lead to heavily overwritten last scenes and extremely symbolic last lines. Sometimes it becomes the dramatic equivalents of the Beethoven coda, with several seeming endings, crescendos, dyings away and final chords before the actual end. ..
It will be what happens last, rather than that sonorous last line, which will stick in people's minds. ..
(The problem can be) due to having found the action but not the right action for the ending - that final vertebra in the chain, connected and relating back to those which have gone before. Simply having someone die, or kill someone, or go to bed, can be a cop-out. Nor will any amount of mere speech necessarily satisfy an expectation aroused in an earlier scene, or a loose end of a character's development which you've failed to tie up.
The wonderful thing about last scenes are that they are the only scenes where you don't have to worry about what happens next, where the characters are going.


The quality of memory (in the audience is an essential component). There remains still - in spite of more than a decade of shock endings, abrupt endings, slice-of-life endings which just halt and (that favourite of the mid 20-century moral vacuum) the inconclusive ending - a desire in audiences to recap the events of the whole play, to hark back to the beginning, touch on moments throughout the play and try to grasp it all as a
I'm not suggesting that playwrights indulge in lengthy speeches recalling every sentimental incident in the play, but it can be very satisfying if the final action of a play somehow pulls together and echoes previous events. Even an exact repeat of a line earlier in the play, spoken again under the different circumstances at the end of the play, can work as an ironic reminder of all that has happened in the meantime.


Bibliography on closure
M Torgovnick, Closure in the novel PB 4378


Examples of closure:
Alan Plater, Swallows on the Water 27/9/82 MN 1'30"
The opening, which is also the hook, is -
"It began, as it was to end, with a telephone call."
The same line is repeated for the closure. A good example of circularity, ring composition.

An afternoon play, A Bumper Year for Dahlias, ends -
"It's been a bumper year for dahlias!"
FX phone, effect faded up
FX Music

Assignment on closure
Examine examples. Find examples of flagging (signalling) the closure. Find examples of recuperation.

 CONTINUING THROUGH THE SITE:    to    use a 'mystery' and    Realism

Structuring the plot

   use a 'mystery'


 To index

See Analysing radio drama

To Radio Drama Theory Lesson Plan






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