Melbourne Fringe: Radio Variety Hour

One of the best aspects of a Fringe festival is the chance to partake of performance styles you don’t normally get to experience. Radio Variety Hour is a recreation of a 1950s radio show with dramatic segments and the hook of seeing sound effects being made live on stage.

Sam Marzden, Lauren Bok and Bert Goldsmith
Sam Marzden, Lauren Bok and Bert Goldsmith

It’s 1959 and black and white television is the new novelty, or is it something more? Inside a broadcast booth, the host of Radio Variety Hour Bert Maverick (Bert Goldsmith) and fellow performers Una Broben (Lauren Bok) and Herb Dunstone (Sam Marzden, and co-writer with Goldsmith) prepare for an instalment of their radio show. In their off-air moments the cast are in varying stages of concern about their careers as listeners are starting to become viewers.

When the trio are in performance mode, the variety promised takes the form of a musical number from Herb, and episodes of serials featuring the sassy Joan Jackson, Lady Detective, and Captain Jet Propulsion in a space adventure that’s true to the history of sci-fi as an allegory for terrestrial issues, and Peculiar Avenue, which recalls The Twilight Zone. 

The ensemble are at ease switching between accents, and seem to quite enjoy their stage time. At the opening night performance, the beaming Bok in particular grasped – and twisted mercilessly – the comedic potential of the live sound effects. I suspect that if there was a need for more effects or that the recorded effects were turned over to the cast, we’d get even more opportunity for laughs.

Radio Variety Hour deserves a solid listenership and with its early evening time slot is a good start to a night of Fringe Hub channel-surfing.

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