Going to a new play is like entering into the great unknown, that feeling of trepidation being very much part of the theatrical experience of seeing new work performed for the first time. Every once in a while a new play comes along that leaves you pleasantly surprised. You consume the bounty of words, sound, movement and light that triggers an emotional response that you had not been anticipating.
The Walker is a mild-mannered man who likes nothing more than experiencing the pleasures gained from his strolls along the canal. For him, his ‘life was an achievement of solitude and comfort…’ seemingly favouring his walks along the canal to the ‘leery concrete and professionally unpleasant fencing’ of home.
The scene of the canal can be a static one with the water, encased by the countryside, providing the prospect of adventure, familiarity and change. One day The Walker discovers a boat rusting and alone in the water, he hesitates at first but finally breaks through the door and finds an unbelievable sight. Yet much to his surprise, he soon discovers that he isn’t alone after all, in the background stands the Radioman.
Felix Trench’s incredible use of language gives The Walker a unique voice that makes it difficult to pin down the period the play is set in. This, intern, plays to the mysterious nature of the character who is very forthcoming but also slightly withholding at the same time.
At times he comes across modern and in at other times he seems overly nostalgic and reflective on a great loss as certain items within the boat triggering past memories. It is here, in the confines of the solitude that the boat now offers him, he begins to find his purpose.
It has not been an easy task to let go of Radioman. From the moment Trench comes to the stage something seems to overtake the intimate space of The Old Red Lion Theatre. Part of the play’s power lies in this fantastical nature of the playwright's imagination that has created a world that seems to beckon that romantic adventurer in all of us. That person who may be lost and contented to their solitude yet urgently trying to find their purpose or a re-connection.
"Trench’s writing is and filled with a natural honest humour that never tries too hard for a laugh, it is just simply there."
Theatre only really comes to life when all the elements are working together. With Radioman the creative team have each risen to the challenge set by their playwright and created a show that isn’t just powerful, but one that has a beauty that is almost unimaginable. For Radioman the audience sees a one-man show that is bursting with originality and this creative undertone that genuinely revives the soul. David Knight & Odinn Orn Hilmarsson’s sound design creates a unique element that will never stop leaving you in breathless. Performed live they remove the safety that recordings offer and instead put themselves right in the mix. The sound and effects begin as though it is a weak or broken heartbeat that does, over the course of the play, begins to develop a healthy rhythm.
Anna Driftmier’s set offers function and detail that gives The Walker his base throughout the play. Entering The Old Red Lion Theatre you can’t help but be intrigued by the big set which makes great use of the space. And yet, even when it’s without The Walker, it is brimming with identity, a past life that is marred by experience. There has been care taken in all the small detail that Driftmier’s has put into creating this set and it shows. Marine Le Houëzec's subtle lighting is effective and injects a warmth to The Gadfly forming part of the dance created by all the other elements.
Director Tom Crowley has, much like Driftmier, Knight & Hilmarsson’s understood and connected to Trench’s text in the most touching way. Crowley never rushes the scenes, giving great pace to the story and performance, allowing it to come out gradually which manages to remain enthralling from the start.
I still can’t seem able to find the deserving category for Radioman. The mark of a good play is how it connects to the audience which can be inspiring and enlightening. Trench’s writing is honest and filled with a natural humour that never tries too hard for a laugh, it is just simply there.
The comforting feeling that one gets from Trench’s humour never dilutes the slight pinch of melancholy that is ever-present throughout Radioman. And when you leave there will be questions that, in your heart at least, you know you do not want to be answered.
It is in this moment that you truly allow Trench's wild fantasy, which is like a magic trick that leaves you in wonder, overtake you.