Radioman review at Old Red Lion, London – ‘imaginative richness’
A young man comes across a rusty canal boat while out walking. It’s inhabited by a near-fossilised old fellow surrounded by sound equipment and antiquated radio paraphernalia. Curious, he returns armed with sandwiches and slowly gets sucked in to Radioman’s floating world.
This is the basis for Felix Trench’s solo show. More of a performed short story than a dramatic monologue it tastes of library books and homemade lemonade. Though occasionally over-written, there’s an imaginative richness to Trench’s work, with its mix of towpath poetry and English whimsy, its nods to everything from Enid Blyton to Daniel Kitson – the central image of the ancient man in his waterway home, half-made of music and unmoored from time, is a bloody lovely one. But Trench’s insistence on acting his story instead of telling it ends up undercutting its potential to enchant. The exaggerated gestures and the hollowed-out old man voice he adopts conspire to rob the piece of atmosphere rather than enhance it. It feels like an over-icing of the cake.
Director Tom Crowley’s production, which reunites him with the creative team from his Vault festival residency earlier in the year, is very strikingly designed. Anna Driftmier’s set is a stunner, an evocative assembly of old wood, the ghost of a boat, and the live score also adds texture, even if it feels like it could be better integrated into the piece. But while a lot of craft and care has gone into Radioman, it never quite comes to life.