Tourists walking along Bankside on Friday evening may not have noticed the crimson rope outside the entrance to the Globe’s basement exhibition space, nor the rather dapper penguin-suited chap manning it.
However, those in the know were already inside, forming a stylish queue for the third instalment of the Fitzrovia Radio Hour, fast becoming one of London’s least underground events, despite its setting.
Resurrecting ‘long-forgotten’ (read deliciously spoofed) radio plays of the 1940s and 50s, the show started life in the fabulous Fitzrovia speakeasy, Bourne and Hollingsworth, before getting snapped up by the Globe Underground, an altogether more cavernous venue.
Friday’s theme, ‘Against All Odds’, produced a thrilling programme of plays, all written, directed and performed by the seven-strong FRH company.
Two female cast-members set the scene crooning classics from the American Songbook, the ‘On Air’ sign lights up and the drama begins in earnest, peppered throughout with live adverts from show sponsor, Poland Street Stout: “Holds happiness in and boots the blues out”.
From the off, the stories are as sharply honed as the cut-glass accents in which they are performed, be it the nudge-nudge innuendo of the two gentlemen vets in The Spiv Who Bought The Farm, or the suspenseful twist in the tale (should that be tail?) of It Came From The Black Abyss.
Arguably though the most fun comes from watching the company perform their own sound-effects. Myriad objects are put to fruitful new uses, from a string of balloons popped to create the rattle of gunshots, to a bowl of jelly shaken to imitate a dog giving birth.
The ensemble performs with genuine gusto, while a black and white camera projects all the action onto a screen behind so not a squelch is missed. Special praise must go to Alix Dunmore and Tom Mallaburn who most believably embody the vintage vibe, but a hat should also be raised to Fiona Sheehan, who expertly switches characters (and headwear) mid-scene.
After a rapturous curtain call, south London band The Correspondents take to the stage to entertain the assembled guys and gels with a unique blend of swing and hip-hop, performed with the same twinkle in the eye as what has come before. Autumn already seems too long to wait for our next Fitzrovia fix.