Ed Gaughan, Wes Williams and Andrew Buckley
Ed Gaughan's one-man show Radioplay, is part of the BAC's "On the Edge" season, consisting of seven shows that have transferred from the Edinburgh Fringe.
The action begins (albeit slowly) on a National Express night coach from Penzance to London. Gaughan plays the driver, Frank O'Connor, and the audience are his passengers. What sets this journey apart from the many others he has done is that he has just returned from the funeral, in Ireland, of his 107 year old great uncle, Richard. This acts as the catalyst for a segue into the glamorous world of radio in 1930s New York. For Richard, an ex-IRA member and accidental freedom-fighter, was one of the early pioneers of the new medium.
Gaughan comes into his own during this part of the show, moving seamlessly from character to character; portraying not only Uncle Richard, but his eccentric sidekick Doctor Scientist, as well as the many fictional characters they acted: O'Regan, the hard-bitten cop; Father O'Connor, an Irish priest who mumbles so much that no-one can understand him; the child-actor Roddy McDowell who appears with a slightly malevolent Lassie - and finally, God, who's wanted for "crimes against humanity".
Gaughan and his co-writer and director Wes Williams are obviously inspired by the period and successfully recreate an over-the-top broadcast called "True Life Crimes". Gaughan is undoubtedly a talented performer and musician and it's no mean feat to sustain a one man show for 90 minutes. However, the frenetic pace of the New York section, coupled with its interesting setting, left me wanting more. I was slightly irritated, therefore, to cut back to the bus, to witness yet more of Frank's worrying habit of driving with his back to the road.
Faced with a choice between an exotic tale of rags to riches in Depression era New York and the nightly grind of a dull journey from Cornwall to London, there isn't really a contest. Apart from a few gems (on being an Irish family in Devon: "We did a sponsored fast for Live Aid and the whole family was arrested for being on hunger strike"), the dialogue didn't sparkle nearly as much as it did in the American story. We learned more about Frank at the expense of Richard. We never really know why Richard breaks down in the middle of a radio broadcast and essentially loses everything. And although he could have been the central character, he remains a shadowy figure with little substance.
The two film clips (evocatively shot by Tom Stubbs) added to the authenticity of the piece; the first set in the golden age of radio when Frank's mother visited Richard while he was at the pinnacle of his career; the second set twenty years later when it had all started to go wrong and the new medium of television had taken hold.
The music and sound effects created by Pete Harris and the moody lighting designed by Stuart Crohill enhanced and defined both the bus and the radio locations, but somehow the individual elements of the production were more impressive than the whole.
Reviewer: Bronagh Taggart