Radioman, a one-man show written and performed by Felix Trench (no known relation) is an unusual piece of storytelling.
It starts conventionally enough. Strolling along the banks of a canal towpath the Walker (Trench, dressed in suit jacket and trousers and Breton tee shirt: more Marcel Marceaux than country hiker) comes upon a clapped-out, moss-ridden canal boat. He knocks and enters and appears to find it empty. But then a jumper materialises as a person. This is ‘Radioman’: lank hair, twisted body, slumped behind a sound desk strewn with CDs, tapes and mini discs, and when he does eventually speak he drawls in a voice reminiscent of Quasimodo; an odd choice that makes him out to be some kind of grotesque monster.
As time passes a sort of friendship develops. The Walker pays regular visits and brings food and water. Quasimodo aka Radioman gains strength, shaves his face and head, then goes for a walk and doesn’t return. The Walker takes his place at the sound desk and doesn’t seem to notice, or to care that much. He’s too engrossed in his sound desk. He is turning into Radioman. From then on reality vanishes, time and seasons pass and the garbage-strewn, decaying boat is miraculously transformed and, not to give too much away, starts to move, but not along the canal.
As I said it is an unusual piece and Trench is an appealing performer. His speaking voice is precise and his language is literary, at times heightened: ‘One long room. Ink and blue, silver and charcoal outlined the heat and air.’ But what this gives the piece by way of poetry it takes away in terms of spontaneity and engagement. It sounds like something to be read rather than performed, a short story spoken out loud rather than storytelling. This is a shame, because Trench is a clever writer, eloquent in his description of his surroundings and effortlessly switching through tenses. It is also quite a literal performance: actions repeat words – ‘He swings round’ – and there is not much variation in pace.
It is not quite a one-man show. Trench is joined by ‘The Operator’ – the sound man who alternates between David Knight and Odinn Orn Hilmarsson, who also composed the music (I don’t know who it was last night) – placed in view of the audience behind a sound desk cluttered with computer, mini keyboard, portable CD player, Walkman and tapes.
Invalid Displayed Gallery
Radioman’s sound desk in other words. The music and effects don’t play as much a part in the show as they could. For the most part it’s just the sound of lapping water, or ambient trance, with little snatches of folk and others – which is surprising considering all the different modes of music the Walker indulges in. The set is simple but effective: the skeleton of a boat, an upstage door, a chair.
It’s a baffling evening in many ways, but an imaginative one too, and one that stays in the mind the following day. It felt longer than its sixty minutes, it could do perhaps with more variety of pace, speech, and music, and in particular of spontaneity. But I am happy to think the talented and enterprising Felix Trench might be a distant relation.
Review by Patsy Trench
BY FELIX TRENCH
DIRECTED BY TOM CROWLEY
The story of Radioman is the story of the Gadfly. A canal boat. But not a very nice one. There aren’t any plant pots. Or lace net curtains. Or windows. This hull is blossoming with rust. A mossy carpet reaches across from the bank and it’s tricky to work out where the cabin ends and the willow above begins. It does have a speaker. And there’s music coming from the speaker. Well, whispering really. It’s not what you might call homely. On the other hand, it is a home, so maybe you would.
Sounds You May Hear Include:
1. Water on brick.
3. The Next 5 Billion Years.
4. Cows and that.
Radioman is an hour of live storytelling with actor and Royal Court Young Writer Felix Trench and composers David Knight and Odinn Orn Hilmarsson. Trench and the composers tell the story as one, blending the speech with the score, live-mixed alongside a soundscape recorded along the Buckinghamshire stretch of the Grand Union Canal. The result is an uplifting synthesis of sound and image like no other. Radiomanis a mossy, waterlogged tale of obsession, produced by Crowley & Co. and directed by Tom Crowley.
WRITTEN BY FELIX TRENCH
SOUND AND MUSIC BY DAVID KNIGHT AND ODINN ORN HILMARSSON
SET DESIGN BY ANNA DRIFTMIER
LIGHTING DESIGN BY MARINE LE HOUËZEC
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER OSCAR FRENCH
DIRECTED BY TOM CROWLEY