Radio Mystery Theatre is comedy at its most traditional, old fashioned and in some ways this is truly alternative comedy at the festival and it’s a refreshing palate cleanser.
The Cast of Radio Mystery Theatre are ambitiously staging three different radio plays during the MICF. All of them involving murder but sending up different genres. This one Whodiddendunnit is a send up of an Agatha Christie style murder mystery in a big old mansion with a butler, an inheritance, every one having a motive and a re-appearance of a long lost son.
There have been quite a few radio plays on at the Comedy Festival over the years with Radio Variety Hour getting a reprise on over at The Butterfly Club during the festival. This version is more formal and less anarchic but has a great big cast of about eight and is its own kind of fun. It keeps itself nice, with most of the humour being the sort that might have been performed at any time in the past eighty years and had audiences laughing. There were only a couple of anachronisms, like the word nail-gun which I think is actually a bit unnecessary, I was quite enjoying the whole historical re-enactment sort of feel of it all. But if it gets a laugh, it doesn’t really matter, this sort of whacky humour has been around since before The Goons and they began doing their thing in 1951 so in a way it’s in keeping with historical tradition of comedy radio plays after all.
A disappointment for me (in both radio shows on at the moment) is the lack of a specific foley artist. This important radio job that still exists in movies today is a way of making all the sound effects with everyday objects. To me this has always been one of the most exciting components of watching a radio play being performed. It is the big visual component for the audience (“ooh what is he going to use that big tank of water for?”) that the radio listeners will never see but adds to the radio listening experience. Here we had a table laid out with objects that got me excited, a chain, a knife, a bust and so on, but in the end they were used as silent props which did not make sense because they serve no purpose for the radio listeners. So apart from the odd knock on a table by the actors, most of the sound was pre-recorded and without the Foley artist running about doing his or her stuff, it’s a bit like watching a play reading.
The best thing about Radio Mystery Theatre was the performances of the actors dressed in formal black with the chaps in bow ties. The highlight being Anna Renzenbrink in two roles, both as dotty Aunt Agatha and keen scullery boy cum detective side kick Tommy. Without a proper programme it’s hard for me to know who was playing whom but I also particularly enjoyed the narrator and host who sounded like Bela Lugosi, the characters of Hodges the butler cum detective and dippy son Teddy though everyone else was lots of fun too. The author/director James Hazelden (of musical comedy trio Man Bites God) managed to brilliantly play nasty Pater Gerald and do some of the music background effects as well. A lovely touch, was the musical interlude and advert at half time just like a real radio play. Both were excellent.
This was a very slick production, well written and acted with plenty of laughs. If you are also a fan of 40s film noir or Enid Blyton you might wish to check out the other Radio Mystery Plays Murder Me Again, My Darling and The Adventure of Smuggler’s Cove
All three Radio Mystery Plays are on at LaMama Theatre in Carlton
See the Melbourne International Comedy Festival site for details: