Brighton Fringe 2012
A high octane one man play that becomes more and more involving and powerful as it progresses.
Radio was a hybrid of theatre and storytelling – a sparsely staged (there was just one prop – a wooden chair) monologue. To say that sets the scene for the mechanics of the performance, but doesn’t prepare or even hint at the riches stored up within it. The play begins conventionally enough – the fifties track, the bemused, agitated person making a ramshackle entrance, muttering about something that someone said about only knowing where you’re going if you know where you came from – or something like that.
Then with a gradual recognition of the audience the storytelling takes off, conventionally at first, that flashback from a talk with your significant other, moving on to a life story. Then the script begins to wind up a little more tightly – quite imperceptibly at first. The surreal concept of living at the very geographical centre of the USA begins to resonate with what might be the emotional heart of growing up in Kansas in the age of radio and Sputnik, the Kennedy assassination and the moon landings, Vietnam and small town lives.
By the time we are spinning between student protest and astronauts the content of the play is winding us up still further with fantastic images and call-backs – a fortune doubly made from US flags sold to patriots and to students for burning. There’s humour and pathos in this hour of non-stop narrative, ably portrayed by Benedict Chambers. The dreams of going out into space, both those of the protagonist and a nation are wound together. The US moon-shot, a desperate attempt to beat the Reds into space is nonetheless a mirror for the touching and heroic dreams of the individual.
The climax, where you might say that the individual and the nation finally collide, is powerful and emotional. It’s a very successful putting together of the personal and existence of this huge concept we call a nation, that begets dreams and nightmares, and is a part of the character that we are. The play coiled these concepts tightly together – I had a very real sense of the momentum in this play as you are literally wound up with images and lives. My concentration grew and became more intense as the performance progressed, and that quality of the play, of drawing you deeper and deeper in, was very impressive.
It’s a very tall order to keep an audience’s attention like this – but both performer and the script makes this work.