Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A charming hour of radio as it used to be. Men in formal dress, woman nicely in their place and ripping yarns just full of bravado. All topped off with extravagantly created sound effects. Simply ripping entertainment, don’t y’know Bunty!
Remember the days when radio presenters wore formal attire and those cut-glass vowels central to Received Pronunciation tumbled forth from the crackling radiogram in the corner of the sitting room? Well, the Fitzrovia Radio Hour re-creates the glory days of the radio play, live on air with the complicit audience being given their marching orders through cue cards (“applause”, “groan”, “hub-bub”) as we embark on an hour of nostalgic comedy.
Four thrilling tales involving great British daring-do are presented for our delectation and delight. They are neatly interwoven in pairs to keep us in suspense, not that our interest was ever in danger of waning as the cast of five (three gentlemen and two most refined ladies) whizzed around the stage in the finest traditions of the radio play, scripts in hand, sound effects at the ready.
And that’s where this play really scored a hit. Throughout each tale the cast used no less than three tables covered in a dizzying array of props to create their own sound effects. The range of objects employed included a half cabbage, a melon, a rubber glove, watering can, a pair of handcuffs and a bicycle pump. And you name it, in terms of sounds, they produced it – squidgy sounds, gunshots, mining operations, running water, bodies being dashed against rocks, clocks chiming, doors opening and closing – the list is almost endless.
But the show isn’t just about people having jolly japes with wooden knockers. It’s also about four very different and engaging radio plays, all beautifully delivered by this high quality troupe. The cast use accents, hammy delivery, vivid facial gestures and just about every other trick in the acting book as they turn the dry words on the page into wonderfully humorous and well-crafted stories which, naturally, contain lashings of innuendo and double entendre. Swapping headgear was a popular means of indicating a change of character, often with split-second timing. Our quintet displayed similar alacrity when it came to injecting the sound effects, racing through each the script with the denouement being delivered in a final, breathless rush.
And this year’s production was generously supported by Clipstone Ceylon Tea, for the times when life gets on top of you. These faux ads were inserted at regular intervals, as you might expect with any radio show, and were all the funnier for being repeated, each time with an increasingly surreal set of circumstances requiring a cup of the old elixir of life to restore normality.
This was simple, effervescent theatre delivered with aplomb by a talented and charismatic cast. Never for an instant slipping from character, they created an atmosphere where we could have easily been a live studio audience watching the creation of a 1940’s radio recording. Jolly decent entertainment for all the family and you can’t say fairer than that.