‘The Radio Show at the End of the World’ is a radio play produced and performed by the Oxford University Light Entertainment Society (OULES). The play (perhaps unsurprisingly) takes place at the end of the world, with the planet being confronted by four apocalyptic events at the same time. Featuring an ensemble of delightfully quirky characters, director Val Gladkova and writers Em Fawcett and Ekin Pehlivan take listeners on an utterly absurd journey as a ragtag team of survivors attempt to save the world.
This was unlike any play I have reviewed before. Rather than sitting in a theatre and waiting in anticipation for the lights to dim, I was sitting at home and waiting for an audio file to be uploaded to YouTube. The cast and crew behind this production have adapted superbly to the radically changed landscape of theatre at the moment. The use of exceptionally catchy jingles (which you will end up singing along to by the end) and strong, distinctive performances from the cast helped to clearly structure the piece and gave each set of characters depth. Equally, the play contained some subtle elements of meta-humour, poking fun at the limitations of an audio-only format.
Some of the play’s finer comic moments were satirical, taking aim at a wide range of targets. Some targets were satisfying but rather predictable, such as Southern Rail and belligerent government spin doctors who proclaim, without a hint of irony, that “the truth is not the government’s official position”. However, others were very inventive indeed. Brian Cox (Maddie Hall) attempting to explain why he needed a fully expensed trip to the Bahamas to explain gravity before breaking into an innuendo-filled duet with his downtrodden and neglected brother Ted (Branoc Richards) was deeply creative and funny.
One thing to note is the sheer number of characters voiced in this performance. As such, it is difficult to pick out many characters who really stole the show. I personally enjoyed Madeleine Horton‘s deadpan performance as Terry, a reporter on the ground who seemed deeply unimpressed with the apocalypse going on around them. Moreover, the various listeners who phoned in to Radio Alpha to heckle the alien warlord DVORSHAK (Tom Vallely, who sounded eerily like an evil Yoda at points) were hilarious and managed to reduce the fearsome tyrant to tears.
One criticism I would make is that the play simply went on slightly too long, with some scenes seeming unnecessary. In particular, the military scenes in Act II did little to advance the story and were not especially memorable. Equally, not all jokes will be to everybody’s tastes and some of these were repeated a tad too often for my liking. That being said, the majority of the performance was genuinely lively and engaging. The musical numbers worked surprisingly well at breaking up long periods of dialogue and I particularly enjoyed the “Not the Villain” song towards the end.
What is abundantly clear when listening to this production is the sheer amount of fun the cast and crew had whilst producing it. This sense of slightly chaotic joy shines through during the performance and one cannot help but smile at some sharp one-liners, ridiculously exaggerated caricatures and well-written, completely bizarre songs. This performance, available for free on the OULES YouTube channel, is well-worth a listen sometime this summer.