From the moment members of the audience are politely asked in finest clipped English to switch off their field communication devices, we are transported back to a live radio drama recording in forties Britain.
Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s rapid-fire production - the first of two sets of London shows before the troupe heads for Edinburgh - is rich in witty one-liners and visual (and aural) gags. Three short, humorous tales are wonderfully punctuated by the cast’s imaginative sound effect work. They wobble wires to create wind, pour watering cans for rain, drop sacks for slumping bodies and even smash up a cabbage at one point.
The cast’s timing is impressively tight and the contrast between their very proper, crystal-clear speaking voices and their clownish ‘behind the scenes’ exertions adds to the humour. Farcical tales of a desperate boxer, a haunted house and an international heist are in themselves pretty amusing - with the sort of gentle racial stereotyping that sat comfortably in the era - but it’s the cast’s frenetic energy that really brings them to life.
The enthusiasm and camaraderie of the players is infectious, a stiff upper-lipped dedication to entertain the folks back home, while keenly informing the nation of the comforting, calming effects of a particular whiskey, the programme’s sponsor, through intermittent mini advert dramas.
Each cast member contributes to the success of the show - their shared sense of fun and even their discreet bickering between set pieces further enhances characterisation. Alix Dunmore and Alex Ratcliffe, as the pencil-moustachioed lead announcer, stand out in particular.
Fitzrovia Radio Hour happily resists the temptation to parody or exploit some of the apparent naiveties of the time, and instead respects, celebrates and revels in them. Looking forward to tuning into the next episode already.