I had high expectations of Seabright’s Fitzrovia Radio Hour; a well-known show with three London residencies, a spell at the Edinburgh Festival and generous reviews up and down the country. The concept itself, stage performance of an elegant 1940s-style radio show, intrigued. It is not a new idea, but this play certainly hinges on the comic novelty inherent in watching the production of sound effects and the creation of radio shows. And for the first few minutes I was pleasantly amused. However, this idea is barely enough to sustain a short sketch, let alone to create enough entertainment for a full length play. The creation of silly noises and the equally ridiculous stories soon eroded any charm induced by the era of the setting. In short, I was ready to leave long before the interval.
Fitzrovia Radio Hour was a painful experience, one that was heightened by having to watch the rest of the audience murmur with obvious amusement. Perhaps it was a generational issue, or perhaps I have an unusual sense of humour. The majority of the audience were of an age to have actually seen the 1940s for real, so nostalgia was presumably a significant part of the appeal. I can only describe the show as panto-esque. And I hate panto.
The idea behind Fitzrovia Radio Hour is clever, but it simply is not complex enough to sustain the play. Of course, many will say this is rather the point. It is meant to amuse by virtue of its stupidity. But for me that is not enough. I struggled to endure its pointless ramblings on undead mummies and the “moral tragedy” of the lather who should have known his place. The humour of the show is too obvious, too forced. The real tragedy here is that what should have been an amusing short sketch has been stretched to fill a time it cannot possibly endure for.
The Takeover Festival is currently at the York Theatre Royal, for more information see the website here.