Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Sun 11th – Mon 26th August 2013

reviews

Kayte Williams

at 01:16 on 23rd Aug 2013

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The hour didn't start well, in a stiflingly hot room with a minuscule stage. However, the idea of 'Are You Sitting Comfortably?' is pure genius – the man and woman who live in your radio are in love, but can never meet. Tony Stuchfield and Harriet Cartledge do a great job of changing their voices to recreate every genre of radio show, but their acting does not do justice to the poignant and heart-warming love story. Their nervous stuttering becomes tedious, and the needless yelling in such a tiny room gave me a headache. The show is easily stolen by Stephen Bermingham playing the cassette deck, who slides around the stage with the bounciness of Rik Mayall and the villainy of Scar from 'The Lion King'; a star in the making.

The small performance area is a massive detraction – I didn't appreciate being used as a prop, or pushed out of the way several times in the course of the play. It also made the direction highly stationary, though this was partly due to the fact that the two main characters was trapped to their separate desks. The set design was quirky and funny by itself, and gave a sense of personality to the characters, which they couldn't create themselves. Brash sunflowers and various personal clutter littered the desk of FM, the male frequency, while a keyboard of sound effects adorned AM's neater area. The Deck made his presence felt by trailing tape all over the stage, which also makes his all-purple costume unforgettable.

The story was exciting and fast-moving, involving kidnap, near-death experiences and a joyful finale. The sub-plot starring the radio's owner also showcased his great background acting, which was unfortunately more emotionally moving than the central romance. However, the cameo appearances by a few unimportant characters such as the pirates are unnecessary and irrelevant. This show got great reviews when it was first produced by a drama society at Cambridge University, but it should have been more exhaustively adapted to be a real success in Edinburgh.

All in all, 'Are You Sitting Comfortably?' was well situated in the am-dram student theatre environment for which it was originally conceived, but despite some redeeming features it has no place charging almost ten pounds when there are so many excellent free shows at the Fringe.

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Victoria Ferguson

at 09:43 on 23rd Aug 2013

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Imagine if each time you turned on your radio, it wasn’t a broadcasting studio and radio waves that brought you the news or this week’s Top 10 or ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ (I’m not here to judge), but little people in the machine itself. Imagine, or just go and see the Dryden Society’s ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ where they have done all the imagining for you, delivering a show that is funny and bursting with originality.

Thomas Stuchfield plays FM, who spends his days and nights entertaining the various whims and fancies of his listener, and dreaming about the beautiful AM (Harriet Cartledge). After years of listening to each other’s broadcasts the two are deeply in love, but they are cruelly separated by the tape deck between them and destined never to meet.

From the temperamental reader of the shipping forecast to a gutsy, Irish woman named Candice, AM is forced to perform a whole spectrum of characters in order to satisfy his listener. The variety of voices was very funny and I was impressed by the versatility displayed by both Stuchfield and Cartledge. However, attempting to deliver a broadcast with the mischievous Deck (Stephen Bermingham) meddling in the background, Stuchfield’s performance became a little too frantic. With such an interesting concept and clever radio jokes by the barrel-ful, the frequency of slapstick elements was unnecessary. Bermingham’s character in particular was overly theatrical. His melodramatic performance was humorous, but as I tucked my feet hurriedly under my seat to avoid accidentally kicking him as he rolled across the floor howling about unrequited love, I felt entitled to conclude that it had all gone a bit too far.

I particularly enjoyed the moment when AM and FM organise a romantic date together. Of course, depending on what your definition of ‘romantic’ is, you might disagree. They can’t actually see each other, but after nevertheless gussying up, the two sit down and the endearingly flustered engagement takes place over the radio. A ‘clink’ from AM’s collection of sound effects gives the date a dash of authenticity as they make a toast and sit at their desks drinking wine from a mug. Despite Deck’s unwelcome intrusion, a collection of misunderstandings and an awkward dance scene, we are assured that there is hope for this long-distance relationship when FM professes that AM is “the most sonorous girl on the airwaves.” They might never kiss, but at least that FM has a way with words.

‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ is an imaginative play that explores an original concept with some fabulous wit. My two suggestions are as follows: Firstly, take a look at this show while you still can. And secondly, the next time you’re tempted to listen to hours and hours of ‘Just A Minute’, ask yourself what FM ever did to you to deserve such treatment.

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