In an exploration of the dire straights into which a human being might be driven in the horrifying hypothetical of life after the apocalypse, Shaken Theatre makes an interesting Fringe debut with Wasteland Radio.
The concept for this show is pretty interesting. Sam Dietrich plays a slightly cracked survivor of a volcano-induced apocalypse similar to nuclear winter without the radiation. Having found the cat’s meow of survival establishments in a radio station fully equipped with emergency power and a stockpile of high-quality music on cassette, he settles into a routine of broadcasting, talking to his potential listeners, and slowly growing desperate in his isolation.
Dietrich’s performance is energetic and fun, if somewhat lacking in direction. He is unfortunately tied to the realist convention of speaking into the broadcast microphone, which does one of two alternating things, depending on the moment. Either it renders him stationary as he sits by it, or it makes the audience wonder why he bothered sitting there at all, since the microphone seems to pick up his voice equally well from all corners of the DJ booth.
As Dietrich moves about the stage, his effusive gestures overwhelm the rest of his performance, since he can’t seem to stop moving his hands (or any part of himself, really) as he speaks. There are a few times where after changing tracks on the radio, Dietrich prepares to leave the station; away from the speaking part of the script, these felt more controlled. I wish he would slow down like this more often, as he does to great effect in the final scene of the play, which is also notably the only one that employs any amount of silence in the production. Dietrich’s character has compensated for his loneliness by talking to himself in various guises, and while this is an interesting idea, it has a cartoonish feel unfortunately in keeping with the consistently big movements he uses for the majority of the show.
Dietrich’s high-energy strategy is effective in some truly funny comic scenes, but they come off feeling like laugh-plays and lack some depth. This is unfortunate, since the host character as written seems to have some good potential to be interesting and real. I see that some of the caricature-drawing of Pam, and the former host of the station could be effective bits of humour, as well as coping-mechanisms for the character, but only in contrast with a more measured performance in other contexts.
There are other times when the script falls into a pit of clichés, and forgets its own conceit of representing a radio broadcast. The scene in which Dietrich explains the volcano’s eruption is the most glaring of these: everyone who might conceivably be listening to the broadcast cannot possibly be unaware by this point of how their world came to crash down as it has. This is an ill-advised attempt at exposition that, while perhaps a necessary part of the plot, should be reworked from the confessional feel it has in its present state.
The sound and lighting in this production (provided by Lewis Caunter) are relieving well done; it would be a shame to have a show about a radio station with a bad soundscape.
All in all, this show is pretty entertaining, but falls short of being an outstanding production. It is funny and at times quite charming, and represents a brave foray into the world of theatrical creation for the young company.
Upcoming Shows: (Venue #1: Arts Court Theatre)
June 25 @ 19:30
June 28 @ 14:30
June 29 @ 17:30