Although the Edinburgh Fringe is long over, it continues to provide online material in the form of some of its digital content being released through other platforms, such as A Theatrical Life which I reviewed the other day. The ideal curated location for such pieces is Scenesaver and, if you’re a fringe survivor with content that you would still like to share, I’d advocate checking it out. Also now emerging here are filmed records of actual live Fringe shows – an ideal way for productions to be shared to those who couldn’t make it up to Scotland.
One of the first out of the starting blocks is Radio 69 by local (to Edinburgh) collective The Counterminers. I recalled reading a number of positive reviews for this show in its live incarnation and, as I was in severe need of some cheering up after a cat based health scare and it seemed likely that the subject matter wouldn’t be too “heavy”, I headed in its direction. It’s a devised piece pulled into some sort of shape by writers Hollie Avery, Zoë Robertson and Holly Sargent and set in an ailing Scottish borders radio station. Show hosts Ash and Amy struggle to keep the broadcasts going as the ratings fall; they are somewhat undermined by traffic reporter Frankie who makes it up as she goes along and weather forecaster Pippa whose methods seem rather less than scientific. Also regularly getting in the way is the cleaner Dougie who has an eye for taking over and when he’s not being observed breaks out into spontaneous dance routines with his mop including an impressive display of the splits. Planning to do away with the whole lot of them is station boss and local brewery owner Mr Jeego (first name, Hugh – yes, it is that type of a show) and so the troops have to rally to get a special guest on to save their bacon. Local badboy and doyen of political incorrectness Filthy Phil is their first choice, swiftly followed by Nicola Sturgeon – although there’s some concern that she might be too busy. In the end she both turns up… and doesn’t.
It’s a show which doesn’t take itself uber seriously. Situations seem to be there to serve the jokes rather than the other way round and there was definitely little subtlety in the characterisations which is forgivable considering the type of piece it aims to be, i.e., a fun Fringe piece which doesn’t require heavy concentration, and which works as a showcase for a young team. The key tone is of frenetic farce without the necessary clockwork plotting which makes these things really take off. Indeed, the main plot gets rather confusing though not in the required way and doesn’t bear much scrutiny. There’s a subplot about the characters’ relationships with each other which I thought rather got in the way turning some parts into a schmaltzy rom com. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t particularly like it either; for me, it fell into that middle ground of “meh!” which in some ways is worse. Some of the best moments come from the radio station’s ads which appear between scenes which are brief and to the point a lesson that needed to be applied elsewhere.
Now, given my personal mood yesterday evening I’m quite prepared to say it was me and not them and if the reactions of the audience and the glowing reviews left on the Fringe website and elsewhere (regular four and five star types) are anything to go by then that is definitely the case. Or perhaps it’s something to do with Fringe shows set in beleaguered radio stations – I also saw/reviewed The Sean And Gerry Breakfast Show recently which I positively disliked if that’s not a contradiction innterms) so at least the Counterminers got one up on that. What the piece urgently needs is some shaping and refining and a clearer sense of being an out and out farce with a far tighter structure. However, like all reviews, this is just one person’s p.o.v. and maybe I should have just stuck with nursing the cat!
Today’s bonus Scenes For Survival piece is Birdie’s Dilemma. In a kitchen a woman heats up a kettle while her inner rage also boils. The firm she works for is letting her go but they have no idea that she’s not going to take it quietly. Tracy Wiles captures a disturbed character within just a few minutes in a script written by Apphia Campbell
Radio 69 is available via Scenesaver – click here
Scenes For Survival pieces are available from the NTS website – click here; a number are also available on BBC iPlayer – click here
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