Pros: A bright, engaging cast bounce off each other mixing slapstick with clever puns.
Cons: The revivalist 1950’s radio format looks a tad predictable at times.
St James Theatre seems to be specialising in retro radio shows at the moment. Hot on the heels of The Phantom Raspberry Blower, we now have The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s Christmas Special. All the hallmarks of the classic radio show were present and correct: stiff backed broadcasters enunciating the Queen’s English; short stories broken into segments with the inevitable cliff-hanger; idiot boards directing the audience and a DIY special effects table. Yes, it was cosy, familiar fayre. Not that I have any memory of the shows that pre-dated TV, but I couldn’t help thinking I’d seen it all before; the show was only saved by an enthusiastic cast and receptive audience.
The radio hour was actually one hour forty minutes, with a twenty minute interval in between. There seemed barely enough content in the stories to stretch that far, but they pulled it off – just. The first story, ‘It’s a Passable Life’ was a corruption of A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life; the well-worn Christmas tales of redemption and hope. The second story, ‘Boxing Day Champ’ focussed on the cautionary tale of Ted Miller, ex-boxing champ going for one last shot at the big time; a £20,000 purse and house in Woodford await him if he wins. The third story, ‘The Woman Who Didn’t Prepare’ was a painfully weak warning for women who don’t prepare their meals properly. The grand finale was ‘The (Christmas) Day They Stole The Eiffel Tower’; undoubtedly, the strongest story of all featuring the mysterious Excalibur Rogers plotting the crime of the century.
As always the cast make any production, and this was no exception; Tim Dewberry, William Findley, Alex Gilbert, Fiona Sheehan and Dan Starkey carried the show with an infectious sense of fun and they obviously enjoyed the experience. There was perhaps too much emphasis on physical humour, which is strange as this is supposed to be a radio show. Effective use was made of a plethora of props including melons – a little tip from me, don’t sit too close to the front.
Overall, it was good light-hearted fun that made for a pleasant evening; although it did lack substance and originality.
Authors: Tom Mallaburn, Martin Pengelly, John Edgley Bond and Phil Mulryne
Director: John Edgley Bond
Producer: Seabright Productions Limited
Box Office: 0844 264 2140
Booking Until: 23 December 2015
Booking Link: https://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/studio/the-fitzrovia-radio-hours-christmas-special/