Last night I went to the Bread and Roses theatre for the dark comedy ‘Under the Radar’. Written and directed by Jonathon Crewe, this is a play that starts slowly, before taking you on a macabre and unexpected journey.
From the opening scenes, I have to confess that I was a little worried that I was in for an evening of awkward interactions and thinly veiled conversations about father issues and misogyny. However, this is a prelude for something much darker and more confronting.
Reporter Lee, played by Eleanor Hill, is on an assignment to cover the story of Martin, played by Nicholas Anscombe, who is taking his homemade submarine Eden on its maiden journey. From the very first moments they meet, you realise this is going to be an uncomfortable encounter. Martin makes various sexist comments, but attempts to downplay it as humour. Lee bristles and is immediately at odds with him.
Queue the scenario, a feminist and a misogynist trapped in a submarine alone together. However, as the aquavit flows, the play takes on a new dimension. I don’t want to give too much away, but it would be fair to say this becomes a very disturbing journey indeed.
While I didn’t immediately warm to Hill’s Lee, she really comes into her own as the play develops. Eleanor Hill particularly shines in the darker, comic elements of the piece, and is downright brilliant in the final scenes. Nicholas Anscombe has the challenging role of the socially awkward and politically incorrect Martin, who was never going to be a likeable character, however he succeeds in bringing him to life without going down the lazy road of caricature. As with Hill, his is a performance that grows and develops deeper dimensions over the course of the play, until he skilfully reveals the full fury of Martin’s delusions. The power of this two-hander sits squarely on the shoulders of these two actors, and they totally deliver. This is a very well cast piece.
Jonathon Crewe’s has written a pitch black, strange new comedy that definitely sparks conversation. I found myself chatting to other theatre-goers (yes total strangers, don’t judge me, I theatre alone a lot) after the show as we were trying to digest what we had just seen, and not in a negative way. The story is such a dark one, so imagine my surprise when one of these friendly strangers told me they’d remembered reading about something similar actually happening. A google search later, and yes, this crazy story appears to have been inspired by real life events. Yikes! It goes to show, life is definitely stranger than fiction.
‘Under the Radar’ doesn’t pull any punches, and has a lot to offer those who enjoy their comedy dark and their theatre provocative. Following a slow opening, the story unfolds with a lively and engaging pace. Some of the set changes did take a while, but these provided a natural break for me to digest what I’d just seen, so I didn’t mind that. Plus, in a small venue, I’m not sure how you’d manage it any quicker.
I highly recommend ‘Under the Radar’ for lovers of the macabre. Probably not the best fit for those who are easily shocked, or more accurately those that mind being shocked. They do not hold back, I could probably dedicate a whole blog post to trigger warnings.
‘Under the Radar’ runs at the Bread and Roses Theatre until 16th November, every night at 7.15pm.