Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

History is just a property of light – Radio at the Arcola Theatre

“Charlie Fairbanks was born in the dead centre of the United States at the dead centre of the 20th century.. Americans are going to the moon and Charlie’s sure he’ll be the first one there”. Radio, a mesmerising one-person play by Al Smith, uses the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing as a starting point, but explores much wider issues, including imperialism, the American dream (Fairbanks’ entrepreneurial parents’ flag-making business booms on the back of the twin demands of anti-Vietnam flag burners and pro-war patriots proudly flying the Stars and Stripes in their front yard), family, and a little bit of magic.

Charlie Fairbanks is captivated by space at an early age and spends his childhood preparing life as an astronaut, daydreaming in his bedroom and, later, the wooden spaceship is Dad builds him in a tree outside his bedroom window. “I don’t know where you’ve been but I must have become the most travelled boy alive. I’d been to over fifty planets, met hundreds of other life forms, saved the Earth from destruction no fewer than a thousand times and never left my house!”

Fairbanks loves the idea of adventure but also takes a more philosophical approach to space exploration and, thus, is able to woo his first teenage love with astronomical romance: “Lying there, drifting up into those ancient lights is exactly like looking into the past. History, I think, is just a property of light”.

Staged in Arcola’s basement Studio Two, the play makes brilliant use of sparse stage props, but is primarily anchored on Adam Gillen’s extraordinary solo performance and Smith’s clever script. There are some few wonderful plot twists that would be ruined by writing too much about the story, but suffice it to say that Radio will make you laugh, ponder, look at the Moon in a new way, and always carry a playing card or two in future.

Radio is on at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston, until 13 July.

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