The Afternoon Play is a long-running drama programming strand, broadcast every weekday at 2.15pm on BBC Radio 4. Each play lasts for 45 minutes, and roughly 190 new Afternoon Plays are broadcast each year.
Generally around three quarters of the episodes are self-contained dramas. The rest are short series, usually between 2 to 6 episodes, such as Number 10, Pilgrim, or Bad Faith (the latter starring Lenny Henry). As well as original drama series, the Afternoon Play has included a number of adaptations of popular works such as The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
In one form or another, the Afternoon Play has been a feature of afternoons on Radio 4 since its launch in 1967, although the strict 45 minute format was not enforced until the reorganisation of Radio 4 by James Boyle in 1998, whereby the play directly follows the 2.00pm repeat of The Archers.
Several Afternoon Plays were amongst programmes held in 20 underground radio stations of the BBC's Wartime Broadcasting Service, to provide public information and morale-boosting broadcasts for 100 days after a nuclear attack.
In May 2009 it was announced that the listening figures for the Afternoon Play fluctuated between 1.1 Million and 800,000, making it one of the most popular outlets for new dramatic writing in the world. Monday's Afternoon Play is usually the most popular play of the week, and Thursday's is usually the least popular.