A glorious 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 wondrously created sound effects. Simply top-ho entertainment, don’t y’know!
Remember the days when radio presenters wore formal attire and the resonant tones of RP 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 (“cheer”, “applause”, “groan”) as we embark on an hour of nostalgic comedy.
Three thrilling tales involving great British daring-do are presented for our delectation and delight. Two are neatly interwoven to keep us in suspense until the end of the show with “The Fitzrovia Four Minute Mystery” inserted to spice things up mid-way through. 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 a centre table of props to create their own sound effects. You name it, they produced it – a mud monster, a jet aircraft bursting through the speed of sound, 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 three 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.
Their skill as performers really came to the fore in the rapid-fire, four minute mystery play. Swapping headgear to indicate a change of character with split-second timing and displaying similar alacrity when it came to injecting the sound effects, our quintet raced through the script with the denouement being delivered in a final, breathless rush.
And the whole production was generously supported by Rose’s Carbolic Soap, guaranteed to prevent those unseemly smells associated with body odour. These faux ads were inserted at regular intervals, as you might expect with any radio show, and were all the funnier for being repeated.
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. They say that nostalgia’s not what it was, but this was a great hour of entertainment for all the family. Can’t say fairer than that.
Reviewed by Tim Wilcock 29 August 2010
Fitzrovia Radio Hour
Finished at the Fringe but watch out for their London shows at Wilton Music Hall (10/9/10) and Rose Theatre Kingston (17/9+18/9).