Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Veldt: New Radio Adaptation

"I wrote The Veldt because my subconscious knew more about children than has often been told." Ray Bradbury wrote these words in his introduction to his stage play version of his classic story.

"The Veldt" tells the story of a futuristic nursery, where children are kept occupied by a virtual reality environment, which can conjure up any world they can imagine. The children's parents ultimately pay the price for offloading childcare responsbilities onto a machine.

Bradbury seems to have concocted this tale primarily as an observation on the potential for "evil" inherent in children. As such it is a companion piece to "Zero Hour", "The Small Assassin" and "The Playground". In all of these tales, children conspire to do bad things.

"The Veldt" has remained one of Bradbury's most popular stories, and has been adapted for radio, television and film many times. Its popularity back in the 1950s was giving a huge helping hand by the radio adaptations. These, no doubt, came about in part because Bradbury's nursery is an obvious analogy for the then new - and, to radio, threatening - medium of television.

Bradbury has little interest in technology, and probably didn't care that his story was criticised for technological implausibility. However, the story has been used many times over the years as an exemplar of virtual reality, and today's technology (particularly in interactive media) seems to have at last caught up with Bradbury's once implausible concept.

A "modernised" version of Bradbury's story has just been produced by BBC radio. It builds in some of our modern day concerns about how children waste/spend their time. In my view, little modernisation is really necessary, since Bradbury got the issues spot on in the original story. However, playwright Mike Walker has created a vibrant new version on the story. And anyway, I am always pleased to encounter a new dramatisation of a Bradbury story.

If you are quick, you can catch the play via the BBC's "Listen Again" feature by clicking here. The link will be valid until 28th May, after which the BBC will replace it with a different play.