Radio Times (review)

Gary Wilmot in Radio Times. Photo by Robert Day.
Gary Wilmot in Radio Times. Photo by Robert Day.

It was blackout conditions for theatre-goers when they turned up at the Royal & Derngate to enjoy a night of nostalgic musical whimsy with the effervescent Mr Gary Wilmot in Radio Times but the wartime conditions only added to the fun.

Was it the corny Max Miller-style jokes and puns, the energy of a highly talented cast, or a longing for good, old fashioned vaudeville that put a smile on everyone’s faces? This was a feel-good show that delivered a night of pure joy.

Vivien Carter. Photo by Robert Day.

Vivien Carter. Photo by Robert Day.

The Bletchley-based performer leads a gang of entertainers working on a show called Variety Bandwagon for the BBC Home Service during the Second World War.

They’re based in an underground theatre in London called The Criterion and they are about to make radio history by broadcasting to America.

The only problem is that they haven’t got a full cast and their script has been censored. Will they be all right on the night? Will Wilmot, playing cheeky chappie and MC Sammy Shaw, come up with a show that could prompt the USA to come into the war?

Radio was the country’s lifeline during those dark times and its shows were huge morale boosters.

Wilmot dazzles as Shaw, delivering gags, songs and dance numbers with his usual finesse. It’s a mystery why we don’t see more of this incredibly charismatic performer.

He is almost eclipsed by the gorgeous Vivien Carter who plays one of the radio cast members. If he is Mr Personality then she is Miss Congeniality, complete with a megawatt smile, a great voice and a talent in the chorus line.

John Conroy does his best to upstage everyone. He starts out as the straight-by-the book BBC suit given the task of coming up with a dull but worthy light entertainment show, before surprising himself as a one-man comedy act that produces laughs a minute.

This is a faultless musical that is right on the button. It’s on at the Oxford Playhouse this week and comes to the Wycombe Swan in November as part of a UK tour. For dates, tickets and info go to www.radiotimesthe