Protagonist-dominated (play's main character most important for plot)

This is a the type of play where the main character dominates the narrative, appears in most of the scenes and towards whom most of the action is directed. The PROTAGONIST (HERO) gains our sympathy.

FORMULA FOR THE MAIN CHARACTERS IN A SOAP (SERIAL DRAMA) - 6 - Feisty Girl, Inexperienced Girl, Streetwise Boy, Inexperienced Boy, Boss, Villain


Discussion of the protagonist-dominated play
This is one of the most significant structural aspects of the radio play, especially the popular play in BBC R4's broadcasting slot in the afternoon.

The protagonist directs most of the traffic in the play, so to speak. Scenes are structured where the interest and sympathy is loaded to the protagonist, and the dialogue is through his or her point of view.

The protagonist has to be a sympathetic character. That is the way the listeners are brought to invest emotion.

Rarely, the protagonist is not sympathetic. It is likely to be for genre reasons (a villain in a thriller) or an experimental play on BBC Radio 3.

The reason for this preference (a sympathetic protagonist) is in the medium, radio. A radio play needs to be 'centered' more than a play in any other medium, for the reason that it lacks the 'presence' of any of its characters. The strong protagonist draws the listeners on through the narrative and attracts their interest through their sympathetic identification with him or her, and with his or her situation.

This is reinforced in the writing in many scenes by directing the action through the point of view of the protagonist.

It is further reinforced if the protagonist is given a monologue, or a series of monologues. Then the presentation of the protagonist is more subjective. Again this suits the particular resources of radio.

Radio has that flexibility to go inside the speaker's mind for expression and to move outside into dialogue again. (

The play may been seen through the consciousness of the one character. This is a regular pattern in Giles Cooper and is an inheritance from stage expressionism and the long strand of radio play expressionism. (When there is not a dominating protagonist, the play is more likely to be experimental, as said above.)

It is useful to compare these two main structures, protagonist-dominated and not, in radio adaptations of stage plays.

Alan Ayckbourn farces provide examples where the action is more evenly divided between the characters. It is also useful to contrast a playwright established in radio but also outside, on the stage. In Howard Barker's radio plays, 'Scenes from an Execution', for example, one character rules all. This contrasts with his stage plays (mostly).


Comments on the protagonist-dominated play
This has not been discussed or observed as much as it should.

Assignments on the protagonist-dominated play
Find examples of this and of plays which do not centre on a protagonist.

Naming of a character to let the listener know who is who and to avoid confusion





This site is 'Radio Drama - directing, acting, technical, learning & teaching, researching, styles, genres'. See INDEX to navigate also.  Complete curriculum of scripts, techniques (acting & directing & post-production & genre styles), advice, sound files - effects and atmoses (with no copyright and so free to use), detailed script commentaries, etc.


Academic material on this site is Creative Commons License Alan Beck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Learn about radio drama on this site along with my book - Beck, Alan, Radio Acting, London: A & C Black ISBN 0-7136-4631-4 Available on Amazon. CLICK HERE.

To the WELCOME PAGE for Alan Beck's sites. See more of Alan Beck's work.


Any opinions expressed in this site are the personal opinions of the owner of the site. IF YOU HAVE COMMENTS, PLEASE EMAIL TO :

More on: radio and play
The Fastest FTP Client on the Planet, GoFTP FREE