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TALK RADIO by Eric Bogosian

Old Red Lion Theatre 29 August – 23 September 2017



‘A potent play with explosive energy, contained in an awesome set’



Thirty years ago, when Eric Bogosian penned the play, talk radio was at its height.  With loners, drunks, and insomniacs included amongst their callers, they were not, the most level-headed bunch.  Their views encompassed conspiracy theories, hoaxes and sometimes just reaching out in the night to another human being.  All comers are here in Bogasian’s play with his lead character, radio host Barry, heckling his callers and showing them up for the losers they really are.  


It sounds like a recipe for a good laugh at their expense and perhaps that’s exactly the reason for the popularity of the shows.  Bogosian, takes it to new heights by exposing them as dangerous rather than harmless fun.  The radio presenter falls into his own trap, becoming more disillusioned by the banality of the caller’s comments and eventually suffers a break-down.  The show is about to be picked up by a major broadcasting company and so the pressure is on to put on a particularly good performance.  Instead, of winning this accolade, Barry is broken and all his supporters leave him to wallow in his own sense of self-loathing.  


The lesson from Bogosian is clear, we need to talk, and punishing people for their lame views, will achieve nothing.  It’s a potent play, reminding us of problems with Trump and Brexit, when the truth is hard to access.  It reminds us of the value of the press and an internet which shares ideas and allows people to make informed choices.  


Middle aged Barry is played to perfection by Matthew Jure.  He breathes life into the character, with his hyperactivity, sharp quick wits, and constant sweeping away of his errant long hair.  The latter seems a statement of his constant drive to achieve something that he never gets right.  The scene in which teenage caller Kent is allowed in the studio is a gem.  Played by newcomer Ceallach Spellman, the beautifully portrayed generation gap ramps up the conflict at just the right moment in the show.


There are plenty of these fine elements in the play under the expert direction of Sean Turner who keeps the action constant and explosive (almost literally).  Also exceptional is the scenography by the outstanding designer Max Dorey.  The radio station, lovingly reproduced with superb attention to period, is almost the shape of a ship with a prow, but this boat goes nowhere.


Also, to be commended is the lighting design by Jack Weir.  A particularly nice detail, faithfully reproducing one of the great mysteries of the period, is the unpredictable strip lighting.  The sound design by Dan Bottomley is likewise spot on and just for full measure, the whole cast display fine acting.


What’s not to like?  Well, the set is so brilliant it almost upstages the play, but this is an important play redolent with good advice for contemporary society with its troubled politics.  


A potent play, driven with explosive energy, contained in an awesome set.




Reviewer Heather Jeffery is editor of London Pub Theatres magazine (email for press releases:

She was playwright and Artistic Director of Changing Spaces Theatre.  Her credits include productions at Drayton Arms Theatre (Kensington), Old Red Lion Theatre (Islington), VAULT festival (Waterloo), St Paul’s Church (Covent Garden), Cockpit Theatre (Marylebone) and Midlands Arts Centre (Birmingham)





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