Theatre review: Radio Fun impressively launches new Company of Ten season

Company of Ten's live-streamed show Radio Fun opened the new season at the Abbey Theatre in St Alban

Company of Ten's live-streamed show Radio Fun opened the new season at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell - Credit: Anne Frizell

Madeleine Burton reviews Company of Ten’s opening production of the new season, Radio Fun.

In these strange times, the Company of Ten tuned into the prevailing mood by turning to radio for a live streaming of its first production of the new season.

And while the Abbey Theatre in St Albans may have been largely empty, those of us watching Radio Fun in our front rooms over three nights last week were royally entertained.

For by using the radio format, the lack of a live audience was less important than it might otherwise have been and the canned laughter did not seem out of place.

Written by the award-winning TV comedy duo of Brian Leveson and Paul Minett, Radio Fun was a perfect choice for the current Zoom era.

Brian is a long-standing member of the Company of Ten and it is to his credit and that of his writing partner that they recognised the entertainment value of such a format where there was no live audience.

Performed in an old-fashioned BBC Radio style with the team of five actors talking into microphones and adding sound effects, it comprised a series of silly sketches and punchy monologues.

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Highlights included a clever Mastermind-style sketch with questions on Julie Andrews, a racing skit with an inspired use of horse names, and a dialogue featuring the unlikely combination of Professor Limerick, Mrs Malaprop and the Rev. Spooner.

Dotted in between were a series of concise classic sketches, a clever take on the song Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off and the witty use of a lie detector in a police parody.

Even from a distance – and that is no reflection on the filming which was excellent – the enthusiasm of the cast was more than evident.

You can’t go far wrong with the combined talents of Company of Ten stalwarts Andrew Baird, Jill Priest and John Pyke in the cast.

But relative newcomers Ben Fricke and Katy Meehan more than held their own in such illustrious company.

Katherine Barry directed Radio Fun with a clear understanding of the need to combine the old-fashioned format with a quick-fire, scattergun approach to get the best out of the unusual situation facing theatre.

And while Radio Fun could never have been as hilarious as it would have been with a live audience where laughter engenders more laughter, it was a clever and impressive season launch for the Company of Ten.