“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.
“an enjoyable watch, however, there was something left to be had from Gavin McAlinden’s direction”
Chekhov has been a source of endless inspiration for actors and directors over the hundred-plus years since the premiere of his first play, ‘The Seagull’. In the last week a new film adaptation premiered at the Tribeca film festival starring Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening and Elisabeth Moss, giving this 19th century classic a Hollywood makeover. And why not? By focusing on actors, authors, playwrights and the theatre making itself, who’s to say whether this play will ever stop being interpreted?
Although an ensemble piece, the play charts the relations of Irina Arkadina (Leena Makoff), her lover the celebrated author Trigorin (Jared Denner), a nineteen year old neighbour Nina (Nathalie Prange) and Irina’s son Konstantin (Max Easton), who is helpless at gaining attention from either of the women he craves.
Chekhov’s plays were a change from the melodrama being produced at the time. Most of the action is not seen, either taking place offstage or between scenes – it is the way the characters react which is meaningful as opposed to the action itself. However, in this version, the performances felt slightly disjointed, as though the individual contributors were not connected in their interpretation.
Prange as Nina gave an enticing performance as a dewy-eyed, love-struck youth mesmerised by Trigorin whilst Makoff’s larger than life portrayal of the aging actress Arkadina was marvellously audacious. However, there seemed to be a slight hesitation from some of the other actors in their commitment to character.
For a play often described as a tragicomedy, the laughs were underserved, coming almost exclusively from two characters. Yasir Senna as Sorin, Konstantin’s uncle and the host of the summer gatherings, was refreshing with a jovial and mischievous manner providing light relief. Alan Kenny as the school teacher Shamrayev drew the most laughs from his pitiful, pining goodbyes which were never returned by the rest of the house guests. Moments delivered by other characters that should have stirred a laugh were either heavy handed or glossed over too quickly.
As a play that celebrates the work of the theatre and artists, the set was rather lacklustre; with only a few coloured cloths hanging from the rafters at the back of the stage. The props and costume were much more convincing – my eye continuously being drawn back to the dead body of the seagull during its appearance on stage.
The production was an enjoyable watch, however, there was something left to be had from Gavin McAlinden’s direction to bring the piece into full harmony.