Tag Archives: Talk Radio

Talk Radio

Talk Radio

The Tower Theatre

Talk Radio

Talk Radio

The Tower Theatre

Reviewed – 2nd March 2019



“Simon Vaughan delivered a stellar performance as Champlain, wringing as much meaning out of every word as possible, and fully embodying the character and the world he lives in”


There’s always something enjoyably voyeuristic about seeing what’s behind the smoke and mirrors of performances. Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio exploits and weaponises this for a blistering dissection of a hyper-reality that perpetuates outrage, radicalism, and apathy.

Set in the studio of a successful local radio station, Talk Radio takes place during the two-hour talk show of Barry Champlain (Simon Vaughan), an acerbic and provocative host – not too dissimilar from the likes of Piers Morgan in terms of behaviour, but infinitely more likeable and less punchable. Champlain talks with a variety of callers as the show progresses, each painting a satirical portrait of America’s residents and their attitudes towards current events. Despite being set around the 1980s, many of the voices we hear are unfortunately prescient to those we hear from the more extreme corners of today’s society, and so Bogosian’s writing carries a sense of relatability that accentuates the fierce wit and intelligence it already has.

This production, by Tower Theatre Company, is amateur but for the most part you wouldn’t know, as from the moment you step into the theatre you’re greeted by Phillip Ley’s marvellously detailed set. Ley also directed Talk Radio, and injects a surprising and engaging amount of physicality into a show about a man sitting and speaking into a microphone. It’s a shame, however, that the ensemble of cast members doesn’t match this level of professionalism, as their accents were quite inconsistent, and they often rushed through speech to the extent that the effect of the dialogue was lost.

However, Simon Vaughan delivered a stellar performance as Champlain, wringing as much meaning out of every word as possible, and fully embodying the character and the world he lives in. Given most of the show is spent watching him listen and respond to callers, it’s no small feat that Vaughan is continuously encapsulating.

Talk Radio is a biting and current play that has a lot to say about the way we enable, create, and handle dissenting and misguided voices in society. Despite minor shortcomings from the overall production, it does little to diminish the deeply thought-provoking snarl and growl of the script and central performance.


Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Ruth Anthony


Talk Radio

Tower Theatre until 9th March


Previously reviewed at this venue:
To Kill a Mockingbird | ★★★½ | October 2018
Table | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Seagull | ★★★ | November 2018


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Talk Radio

Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 31st August 2017





“doesn’t hit home enough to be provocative”



Thirty years since its first performance, Covent Garden Productions brings Talk Radio to the Old Red Lion, a play about free speech and how we misuse it. Fictional shock-jock Barry Champlain invites his listeners to call in and say their piece on any topic they like, from the personal, political to the perils of garbage disposal, for which he in turn lambasts them with caustic wit. On the eve of national syndication, Champlain starts to lose control live on air.

I want to love this production. There is a lot to like. Matthew Jure’s performance is masterful. His energy and mania as Barry starts to unravel on air is hypnotic. The rest of the cast are equally fantastic, particularly Ceallach Spellman who storms on as the irrepressible Kent. The set design is incredible, the detail is immaculate and the claustrophobia it creates is palpable. Turner’s direction is slick, keeping the show moving at break neck speed. The pace never slows as the constant stream of voices bombard Champlain, trapped in his box. This has all the elements of a great show.

Unfortunately, it lacks heart. While the lack of connection with the callers may be deliberate, the relationships in the room feel equally hollow. They all exist in isolation, which undermines Barry’s contempt for his callers and robs the play of any emotional impact. The most obvious casualty of this is Molly McNerney’s Linda, whose last minute attempt to reach out to Barry feels unfounded. She becomes just another caller for Barry to abuse and what should be poignant falls flat.

There are also a couple of inconsistencies which just feel clumsy – a particular moment sticks out when an unpleasant delivery is made to the station, creating real tension – which then gets completely thrown away when said delivery is left to litter the DJ booth.

There is no question that Eric Bogosian’s script still has relevance today, with free speech being so widely misused across social media. Questions about what it is we choose to say and who it is we choose to listen to feel even more pertinent in the age of Twitter. But while enjoyable, this show doesn’t hit home enough to be provocative.


Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Cameron Harle




is at The Old Red Lion Theatre until 23rd September



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