Thursday, 5 March 2009

Only in London Part 2: Fitzrovia Radio Hour

Often people back home ask me "Why would you live in London? The weather and dentistry are terrible, it's full of poms... sure you can travel, but that's about getting OUT of London. Why would you live IN it?" To those people I reply with this series of 'Only in London' posts, dedicated to fantabulous - it's what the F stands for, remember - events so London-y you couldn't imagine them happening anywhere else. So read the posts, shut up, and go back to dodging sharks. 

From 2009-03-00-London

Remember life before TV? No? Neither do I. But apparently there was one, and if renditions of these throwback radio plays are anything to go by, it was probably a lot better than 'non-ratings period' back in Australia. I'll admit it: this sounds like a weird night out. And it is. Weird and wonderful.

On a I-have-nothing-planned-for-Saturday-night whim, I decided to do something unusual, and as usual, London(ist) delivered. Getting mildly lost on the South bank of the Thames, I eventually found the Swan at the Globe Bar... heading towards the big white Globe Theatre should have been a clue. Approaching the stairs up to the bar, I had fear in my heart. Venues co-located with tourist attractions tend to be mediocre at best. Crossing the threshold I couldn't have been more relieved. The clinking of cocktail and wine glasses, the hubbub of conversation flowing in the rather trendy looking crowd, and strangely, the tiny angel wings attached to the light bulbs, all gave the place a satisfying buzz. The view across the river didn't hurt either.

The above average dress sense of the crowd became apparent when the Fitzrovia Radio Hour kicked off. Although the performance is ultimately for podcasting, the chaps and damsels of the cast had set the tone in vintage outfits, and the regulars knew to, literally, follow suit. I've tried and failed to describe the show to people since, so I think I'll leave it to their own words:

We are the olive in the Martini.

Classic mystery, science fiction and drama radio plays of the 40's and 50's performed and recorded with style in front of a live studio audience, with live sound effects, then broadcast via The World Wide Web. Enjoy the simpler pleasures in life with cut-glass received pronunciation in a speakeasy bar.

We refute the notion that the well-crafted written word is dead, it's alive and well, living in Fitzrovia and wearing a tuxedo.

In theory the concept could be done anywhere, but only in London do you have the heritage of the British radio play (they still do them on Radio 4), and the kingdom of British accents to call upon. Add to that the ingenious use of props for sound effects, and although we the audience practiced our gasps and hisses before the show, the only sound we added during the broadcast was laughter. Even at the frighteningly aurally disturbing sound of Frank Maskill going 'the lathers way'...

Thankfully, there's another one coming up soon.

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