Deadringers BBC Radio 4

Deadringers BBC Radio 4

Deadringers is one fo the heavy weights of BBC Radio 4 comedy. Now in its 20th series, the show still isn’t afraid to satirise anyone.

With all topical shows there is a balance to be drawn between edgy political material, silliness and making fun of celebrities. Dead Ringers has always put comedy first, but has never been one to pull its punches.

Tony Blair was portrayed as vain, vacuous and meretricious, George W Bush was a man unable to command his own language let alone an army, David Cameron was cast as a lazy time-server, while Theresa May, brilliantly portrayed by Jan Ravens, is a woman who refuses to make any meaningful comment. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a dark sinister alter ego called Bad Boris. A naughty Boris who sits on your shoulder and tells you to do the things you really want to do but are always afraid to do. And The Donald Trump, played brilliantly by Lewis McLeod, just seams to write itself.

On the other wing of politics, Ed Miliband was a cliché-ridden whiner, Jeremy Corbyn is portrayed as humourless, petty and stuck in the past and Keir Starmer is certainly a ladies man who hasn’t really got anything to say, about anything.

Recent highlights for the show have been the episodes immediately following national votes. The day after The General Election in 2016, in which there was a surprise Conservative victory, sketches were written between 10pm when the exit poll results came out, and 11.30 the next morning when the show had to be rehearsed for a recording at 1pm. A noteable moment was a song sung by Ed Miliband: a version of Every Time We Say Goodbye. A similar last-minute frenzy occurred after the European referendum of 2016, when most of the show had to be written in a few hours and resignations happening as the recording hour approached.

The team of impressionists has changed over the 18 years, but Jon Culshaw and Jan Ravens have been in every episode. The current line up also includes Debra Stephenson, Duncan Wisbey and Lewis McLeod. The producer has always been and is Bill Dare.
As well as mocking politicians and celebrities, Dead Ringers also makes fun of other TV programmes. Regular victims include the cast of The Archers, Gardeners Question Time, Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location and the recent BBC Three hit Normal People.

Series 20

The latest series started broadcasting on 12th June, smack bang in the middle of the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a complete ban on live audience recordings and with heavily restricted moment of people in place, the show was decided to be recorded remotely.

Each member of the cast setup up a home studio, anywhere where they could get a decent microphone sound. Not too reverberant and without too much background noise. One of the cast, even set up their mic under the stairs, in the broom cupboard. It had one of the best mic sounds of all the cast.

As with all topical shows, the script was based around the weeks news. It was recorded on Thursday and then edited and mixed on Friday before being broadcast at 6:30pm that night. The cast rehearsed on Thursday morning via Zoom and then was recorded at 2pm, once the script had been updated and tweaked.

The recording meant all 5 of the cast, producer, writer, production assistant and recording engineer had to be online at anyone time. A total of 9 connections and all had to be recorded at a quality that was good enough to be broadcast on Radio 4.

Cleanfeed is a multi-track online recording system which allows each connection to be recorded individually and at a high very high rate, with no noticeable delay between connections, which is essential for a sketch show cast reading off a script. It needs to be spontaneous, just like they were standing next to each other on stage. Cleanfeed performed brilliantly, and gave us a high quality multi-track. All  we had to do now was put it all together.


Edit and Mix

All the multi-track had to be downloaded and ingested into ProTools to allow us to edit and mix the show. Without an audience, it was decided to build a much fuller and sound designed show. Adding atmospheres, vocal fx to place the speaker in situ and sfx created a really amazing show. You could really believe the characters were actually giving a speech to the nation or receiving a phone call from William Hague, instead of standing in front of a microphone under the stairs.

This process took about twice as long as usual, which meant there was incredible time pressure. All the editing, sfx production, mixing had to be done by 5pm in order to meet the 6:30pm deadline.

I’m happy to report all the shows were delivered and all went out on time. Ep 1 was delivered at 5:30pm, due to a slow internet connection. That was as close as it got.




All in all the series sounded fantastic. You would never know it was all recorded remotely with the contributors spread all over the country from Glasgow to London, in front rooms, bedrooms and under the stairs.

Check it out here.

Deadringers BBC Radio 4






The Harrowing Podcast

Production Company: Storyglass

Producer: Ben Walker

Writer: Mark Healy

Sound Design: Rich Evans

For more examples of Sound Design and podcasts please click here.
The Harrowing Podcast