Radioplay @ Lyric Studio, London

performed by

Ed Gaughan
Christine Tobin
Phil Robson
Dave Whitford

directed by
Wes Williams
A man in a dinner jacket that has seen better days wonders across the stage and takes a seat with his back to the audience. He assumes the role of a National Express coach driver, about to transport the audience from Cornwall to London, but this quirky show has bigger plans and embarks on a detour to 1920s New York, a time when radio ruled supreme.

Its very difficult to categorize Radioplay. The production contains elements of stand up, character comedy, film and live music, this latter element provided by a jazz trio. At times it seems the show itself isnt sure what it wants to be and while some attempt has been made to impose a narrative structure the coach driver character reminisces about his great uncle who was a RKO big shot, thus precipitating the leap from Penzance coach station to Big Apple radio studio to call this a plot would be stretching the term beyond its reasonable limits; its actually just an excuse for a string of sketches, many of which have their roots in the radio broadcasts of a bygone age.

This scattergun approach would be off-putting were it not for Ed Gaughans considerable abilities as a physical comedian and his way with voices its essentially a one man show, though Gaughan has the support of a talented trio of musicians (Dave Whitford on double bass and Phil Robson on guitar coupled with the rich voice of Christine Tobin) and the show often pauses so the band can perform jazz standards.

The production also benefits from some wonderful verbal riffs, written by Gaughan along with director Wes Williams and Andrew Buckley. They have a particular talent for the surreal and the absurd. There are a number of lovely passages: God getting lost in a reverie about facing off with the cops in a Soho cinema is one that sticks in the mind. But while the show is intermittently amusing and, on occasion, laugh out loud funny, its quirkiness only carries it so far.

Though Radioplay has clearly grown out of a genuine passion for the era evoked, for a time when men with honeyed American twangs charmed the listening public with tales of gangsters and superheroes, for a time when Charlie Parker ruled the airwaves, it doesnt quite compensate for the messiness of the production. Endearing as their enthusiasm is, one wishes the writers had either snipped the narrative strings and created a proper sketch show or tightened things up to make a more satisfying theatrical experience; as it is it hovers uneasily in the middle.

Certain sections are overlong and the whole thing feels like it could do with a trim and a tidy. Theres talent here, without doubt, and Gaughan, who is never less than watchable, is often hilarious. Theres even a sense of poignancy about the passing of the radio age. But theres always the sense that with a little more shape, direction and development this could be far more impressive than it currently is.

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