BWW Review: RADIO, Arcola Theatre
Adam Gillen is utterly compelling in Al Smith's tender tale of astronomy, discovery and space travel. Holding our attention for 85 minutes, he speaks with delicacy and is a delight to watch. Josh Roche directs with expert precision and the pieces simplicity is its greatest strength. This really is storytelling at its finest.
Charles Fairbanks Jr is the central character in the story; a preppy boy that is somewhat filled with remorse over his life decisions. Regretful in tone, he tells us the story of how he came to be, discussing his family, career and love life. He speaks with high energy and enthusiasm, but also takes moments to pause for thought.
Gillen is immediately likeable and charming. Instead of being overtly loud and bolshie - usually something to be expected in one-person plays - he is conservatively commanding. It draws the audience in; they have to lean in and listen. Gillen is also a strong narrator, aptly performing as many different characters.
Audible have revived this 2006 play, in order to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. Smith's piece also discusses the aftermath of the Vietnam War, immigration and American patriotism. There are lots of comments thrown about and all are given equal amount of time to exist and be considered.
Charles is a dreamer and it's a recognisable trait. The downstairs Arcola Studio could easily swallow up a sole performer, however Roche has ensured that there is enough dynamic movement and ownership of the space, so that the room never feels too daunting. Peter Small's lighting is a lovely addition; it acts like a comforting cuddle in its warm like essence.
Not many of us can identify personally with the story of a wannabe astronaut, who has had such a wild experience of life. However, all of us know what it's like to dream. We all have goals and desires. And we all have obstacles that we face along the way.
Radio is a lovely example of the power of faith and deliciously highlights the testament of spirit.
Photo: Helen Maybanks