“Very little in my upbringing told me what to do when a stranger determinedly DJs at you from inside a rotting narrowboat”
There’s a whole world of nostalgia wrapped up in certain sounds. For me, the clunk of a cassette ejecting evokes a childhood compiling mix-tapes of songs taped off the radio and so can’t help but make me smile whenever I hear it. And it is one sound of many that makes up the detailed soundscape of Radioman, which is live-mixed in front of us to accompany Felix Trench’s self-penned monologue for Crowley & Co. at the Old Red Lion.
Trench’s Walker discovers a dilapidated canal-boat one day whilst out walking, a strange swell of music seeming to emanate from within. He could walk away but he’s intrigued – ‘who’d like in a house(boat) like this’ – and thus begins his adventures with The Gadfly, For it is no ordinary vessel, inside is the impossibly old Radioman and his piles of musical equipment and a strange relationship builds between the two in Tom Crowley’s production.
To say much more would reveal too much as the joy of Radioman comes in the gentle unfolding of its telling. Trench is a highly charismatic storyteller and a richly evocative writer. The passing of the seasons eloquently glides “through figs and apples, gold leaves and black twigs”, the old man’s “sword-blade eyes sit…on metallic skin”, the prose is as vividly detailed as a short story which, as it is available as a playtext, is an indulgence you can treat yourself to read and reread at your leisure.
It also means that there are the occasional moments of tension in the performance, adopted voices muddy the text and break the spell a little – I should say it’s only because it’s been so enchanting, you’ve been totally transported into this world, that this is noticeable. And creatively, the collaborations are perfectly judged. Anna Driftmier’s set suggests the skeletal nature of the boat but also hints towards something more futuristic and Marine Le Houëzec’s lighting shimmers beautifully around the whole theatre.
And completing the set, David Knight and Odinn Orn Hilmarsson’s sound – they share live-mixing duties – a subtle canopy of effects and music that might not feature quite as heavily as one might expect, but the production is the better for this restraint. Beguiling and at times bewitching, it’s time to turn the Radioman on.