Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Tensions rise and egos clash as Roehampton Radio Renaissance Festival’s live broadcast of The Dream House prepares to go on air.
Welcome to the Roehampton Radio Renaissance Festival where it’s organised mayhem as the cast and crew prepare for a live broadcast of The Dream House, bringing back the art of listening to our visual world.
Three desks stretch across the stage, cluttered with scripts, radio mikes and ephemera essential to bringing the playwright’s carefully crafted words to life. Look stage left and you will see the small table onto which has been piled a dizzying array of props and everyday items with which the hard worked Foley artist hopes to create a performance soundscape.
Alan, a real jobsworth of a Chief Welfare Contact, shuffles uncertainly forward as the stand-in MC to outline this evening’s proceedings just as Jay, the radio play’s harassed and short-tempered director, bursts in, using some colourful language to encourage Alan to cut the woffle and utilise the nearest exit.
Meanwhile Bea and Zak, two of the actors working on the reading, are having an animated discussion. And Joe, who only answers to his character’s name, Digby, so immersed is he in his idiosyncratic method of method acting, is in full costume, arranging his personal props much to the annoyance of Sue, the Foley, who considers this a gross breach of the demarcation line between the acting and techie worlds.
You can see just where this promising new play from Otis Kelly is heading before anyone has hit the On Air button and the first line has been uttered. It’s a question of when and not if the whole thing turns to custard as tensions rise between the actors, between the actors and the director and between absolutely everyone (including, possibly, the audience) and Alan.
The radio play, an amusing enough pastiche on life in post-war England, runs across three short acts, with the shenanigans confined to breaks in the recording. And it’s in those breaks that knitting unravels, so to speak. Why does Digby need a wheelbarrow? Why is Zak so obsessed with “the power of now”? And what is Sue doing with that grapefruit?
This is a good show, a promising piece of work that shines on the parts of radio that are normally hidden, probably for good reason. Acting is convincing throughout, particularly in the cases of Sue (a harassed Josie Embleton) and Joe (or is that Digby, or even the charismatic Finn Vogels). And Kelly’s direction rises well to the challenges of staging a radio play, given that much of it is pretty, ‘erm, static.
Whilst the denouement is rather sudden and leaves the lack of resolution rather hanging in the air, it’s still an enjoyable piece of theatre that both entertains and amuses.