Talk Radio, 3 Stars

Talk Radio
Old Red Lion Theatre
29th Aug to 23rd Sept 2017

“This autumn, the team behind No Villain return to the Old Red Lion with Eric Bogosian’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated Talk Radio. Thirty years after its inaugural production in New York, this play explores the not-so-hidden prejudices in ‘80s America and the power of the media to manipulate events.
Barry Champlain is abrasive and forthright, the ultimate devil’s advocate, willing to argue just about any point. He lives for his radio show and the minor fame it brings him but his on-air persona is just that: a persona. Barry despises the people he talks to every day; he loathes their views and he abhors their adoration.
His listeners think they know him but Barry is not even sure he knows himself. He is careless and cold with his lover Linda, downright ugly to his best friend and collaborator Stu and spiteful of his producer, the man who made him, Dan. But above all, he detests himself for the lie he is living.
While freedom of the press has always been viewed as important, Bogosian’s play highlights that, in the wrong hands, this freedom can be used to baffle and create prejudice. In a post-truth age of fake news and continued attacks against the press, this landmark hit has never felt more relevant.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

The most striking thing about this production is the Set (Max Dorey). The attention to detail is phenomenal! From cassette tapes to coffee mugs, angle poise lamps, microphones, it’s all perfect! The authentic costumes work so well for the characters. Dan Bottomley‘s Sound Design was sophisticated and extensive – working intercoms, working studio mics, background broadcasts, jingles, themes, sponsored adverts, it’s all in there non-stop! Again, a lot of work, and so much attention to detail.

With a lot of the dialogue coming from (pre-recorded) Radio callers the interaction between the Show’s Operator and the Cast needed to be spot on, and it was! No mean feat to run this show! Catriona McHugh as Stage Manager nails it!

Molly McNerney is just delightful and the room lights up like a puppy has just entered when Kent (Ceallach Spellman) arrives at the studio towards the end of the production. Despite the script and issues being 30 years old he injects a freshness to the proceedings. The only character who’s happy to be there and having fun!

There’s so much to like in this production, however, and there’s a big BUT coming – the attention to detail and the realism has gone so far as to detract from the enjoyment of being part of the studio. We’re removed from the Studio and looking at the backs of those in the Control Room. We’re looking into a sealed box from outside the box. The callers’ stories are not interesting enough to hold attention for a 2 Act production. Nobody ever said “that show was too short” and this applies here. Part of the frustration with Talk Radio from an audience perspective is that the main character is in a box behind scratchy thick perspex. We can only hear him through the Sound System and not directly, even though he’s only a few feet away. There’s not only a 4th wall, here you also have thick walls of perspex. The principal character lacks depth – he shows one emotion, angst, throughout the piece with variant levels of angst, rising to a crescendo at the end which doesn’t really feel justified by the callers and their stories.

The Director (Sean Turner) has taken realism to the extreme to the detriment of this production.

Photo Credit: Cameron Harle