Well this is probably one of the most unexpected productions I have ever seen. It provides an evening of fun, fascination and frustration. From the moment you walk into the theatre to the moment you walk out you don't know what is going to happen next! Not the right show if you like conventional plays with a beginning middle and end, but just the thing for anyone who likes to turn things around a little and have some fun with theatre.
Let me explain. Stan's Café are a group of artists from a variety of disciplines, though primarily theatre practitioners, working under the artistic direction of James Yarker. Formed in 1992 they have set out to break the boundaries of theatre and live performance experience and they definitely achieved it with Tuning Out With Radio Z
The event is set in a fictional radio station late in the evening. The two presenters – Amanda and Craig – are gently bringing their listeners through the late evening/early morning. This however is the only set-piece of the evening as the entire 3 hour show is completely improvised. The two radio presenter played by Amanda Hardingue and Craig Stephens are immensely believable as presenters – if you close your eyes you can imagine that you are listening to a late night radio station.
Each evening the two actors are given a different theme usually selected the day before. This evening the theme was ‘Luck’. They then weave the entire evening using the radio station as their base, and bringing the theme through their conversations, music and actions. Nothing is rehearsed in advance. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, the audience are then asked to make their contribution by sending texts, emails or messages on-line to the radio station. (Yes this is one show where you can keep your mobile phone on!) Amanda and Craig then incorporate these messages into the evening. So the audience are in essence in charge of the direction the evening is going to take.
Amanda and Craig are highly talented in their craft and a joy to watch as they guide the evening through the various contributions submitted. The whole experience is fascinating. They incorporate comedy, poignancy, disagreement and many more moods and emotions. The music – selected by the actors although with requests from the audience - is appropriate and adds to the believability of the radio station. My only small criticisms are that the evening is just a little too long (that could be my age of course!) and that on one or two occasions the balance of the sound is not quite right, becoming difficult to hear the actors’ voices over the music.
James Yarker – Director is to be congratulated on bringing this idea to the stage and providing an experience which I am sure all the audience will remember for a very long time to come.