Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Tower Theatre: Talk Radio




I was all over Oliver Stone's film based on Eric Bogosian's play at the turn of the 1990s - his ranting black hearted beat poet of the airwaves chimed with my other obsession, the stand up of Bill Hicks. Haven't rewatched the film in many a year but was keen to catch this stage presentation by Tower Theatre Company

A key component to the play's success is maintaining the claustrophobia of the situation, feeling that we are trapped as much as Barry Champlain (Simon Vaughan) with these disembodied voices of the sad, lonely, angry and dispossessed. Anyone who has ever listened to late night radio of any kind will recognise these people. The set helps maintain the pressure on the DJ, pinned in on one side by his call wrangler and punching bag, Stu (Luke Owen) and the other his on/off producer/girlfriend, Linda (Samantha Psyk). As the night roll on we learn a little about Barry from these sidekicks as well as his anxious boss, Dan, who can see bright and profitable future for his star performer if he can just keep him from burning out.

Simon Vaughan plays Barry as a ball of nervous chain smoking energy, a wisecracking sick puppy led to flights of fancy to twist the knife or amuse himself with the callers. The lines left natural rather than monologues, you could see the wheels turning and his delight and dismay in what he is creating and hearing.

The naturalism and playfulness is particularly striking when a caller , Kent (Leon Zedlmayer), worms his way into the studio and the interplay between the dumb kid and the cynical broadcaster has no hint of artifice.
If you are familiar with the film it is not a mere re-tread but a fresh feeling tale that despite being set in 1980's Cleveland still has deep resonance for society. Racism, poverty, division and loneliness are very much out there in the darkness

Talk Radio continues at Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington until Sat. 9th March

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