If Coronavirus shenanigans and quarantine mayhem have been good for one thing, it is bringing theatre into the comfort of our own home. This year I have been introduced to a variety of dramatic forms all the way from opera to ballet. But today I embraced a new form – the radio play – and am certainly pleased I did. Embarking on a wonderfully horrific tale with Roland, Harriet, Lucinda and Sarah, Olivia Adderley’s production transports the audience to a spooky world where something ‘big, dark and hairy’ lies (all euphemism implied), journeying to the House of Wendy where we see some familiar faces (or rather, voices) along the way.
Although I would not go so far as to say I was rolling on the floor scream-laughing louder than the Wicked Witch of the West, I would certainly say the play brought me some light amusement in an isolating period. Whilst some puns left me glaring at the screen like Wednesday Addams, others very much amused me, well-delivered by the weird and wonderful voices of the cast. I did, at times, find it difficult to differentiate between the voices, but the light humour accompanied by melodramatic comedy and the witty script of Simon Raynor brought me much enjoyment for the fifty minute duration.
I particularly enjoyed the sophisticated sound effects by technical director Dragos Farcas, which had me immersed into the action from beginning to end. From the outset the spooky music successfully established an eerie atmosphere. Accompanying this were SFX of creaking, creeping, plodding and rustling, which absorbed the audience into the fantasy. To help separate the scenes a particularly wonderful jingling tune was utilised, creating a sense of light adventure and simultaneously carrying me through the action. There was, also, a narrator to help one navigate the spooky world, but he seemed to (bizarrely) get lost in the woods along the way. Overall Farcas’ sound design demonstrated excellent comic timing, particularly with the loud and dramatic ‘Dun dun duuun’ sound which never failed to amuse.
But it was the various voices of the cast which truly had me dissolved into their fiction. With George Heuck’s voice of received pronunciation he successfully depicted his character of Roland to the audience at home, sustained from beginning to end. Equally enjoyable were Naomi Cook, Lucie Goddard and Issy Flower, who played Harriet, Lucinda and Sarah respectively. Such characters demonstrated sophisticated rapport with their interactions, and excellent comic timing with lines in unison (‘You’re such a boy sometimes!’) . Whilst I did, occasionally, find it difficult to differentiate between them, I must say their child-like interactions brought me much humour on a rainy day. Special credit goes to Lucie Goddard (‘the spiffing one’), whose poshness of voice reminded one of Emma Watson’s Hermione Granger. Overall these characters perfectly created the sense of a kids swashbuckling adventure story (with ‘lashings of ginger beer’) – a perfect moment of belief suspension for a day locked in quarantine.
I equally enjoyed the battiness of Thomas Mullan’s ‘Dwakula’, whose bat-puns, and iconic Dracula accent with the exaggerated ‘v’ and ‘w’ sounds brought such comedy to the scene, all serving to remind one of his iconic phrase ‘I want to drink your blood’. Combined with the alarming and hilarious meta-drama when Mullan at the end of one scene declared ‘leave meeting’, this was all the more hilarious in a pandemic world full of Zoom conferences. Combined with his comical rendition of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and his final outing playing the ukulele, I truly felt I was seeing Dracula – right there in front of me. I also enjoyed the fabulous interaction between Alice Liddle, Elie Baker, Megan Ratcliffe and Eloise Richmond, playing Mummy, Cookie, Splott and Twonk respectively. Working together to create a clear relationship between them, I particularly enjoyed the more serious voice of Baker’s Cookie (is the choice of casting meant to be a pun here?) combined with the childish ‘ooh Twonk shut-up’ delivered by Richmond with a perfect squeal of rising intonation whenever the family rebuked them (which was a lot!)
All in all I found Adderley’s production thoroughly enjoyable. Whilst the action did dim in energy occasionally, the fabulous voices of the actors brought me back into their story immediately. From deep-voiced trees, batty puns, werewolf cries to high-pitched squeals – if you need a bit of comic escapism to transcend the boredom of isolation, this is the play for you.
‘The Fictional Five’ is available to watch online on the Green Door Theatre Co. Facebook page.
By Josh Goodwin
Banner design by Jennifer Leigh.