Radio Silence; an authentic performance of a relevant and intriguing story.
I have, somewhat regrettably, not been to the theatre in some time now, with my last outing being a Shakespeare adaptation from the Prague Shakespeare Company. I think I’d seen too many modern adaptations of ancient stories that lacked genuine feelings and emotions. Theatre, for me at least, is not about deciphering metaphors and double meanings, but rather about allowing yourself to be immersed in a story that really makes you feel something.
Last night I saw the last performance of a show called Radio Silence, written and directed by Brian Callaghan. When I first read the premise of the play, I did struggle to imagine how it would come together and feel believable, but the range of characters in this performance really set the show apart.
The message is that of hysteria, where a simple radio broadcast caused mass panic across America. In a time where Americans were hearing daily broadcasts about the rise of Adolf Hitler and the impending European crisis, an effective story about a Martian invasion and heat rays destroying cities caused neighbour to think about survival and to turn on each other at an alarming pace, with some paying the ultimate price for their rash thinking and naive gullibility.
Brian Callaghan gave an earnest and warm performance as a disgruntled New Jersey Great War veteran, Harry, whose loathing for his slightly flamboyant, progressive neighbour acted as a catalyst in the group hysteria. Coming from the military, I have seen firsthand the effects of PTSD, or shell shock as it was called at that time and despite his insecurities and traditionalist nature, Callaghan made us understand and even pity his character, even after he committed a murder.
Karolina Vorlicka gave an authentic portrayal of Harry’s long-suffering wife, Gerdie, who is also taken in by the story unfolding on their radio set. Katarina Puskarov ended the show superbly as the quirky journalist interviewing the radio producer, and cause of the hysteria, Orson Welles. She then doubled as the authoritative interrogator of Harry, the cynical war veteran, handing him the ultimate sentence for his foolishness. Neil Taylor was the unsung hero of the evening, working his magic behind the scenes and ensuring that the play was a great success.
For me, as a history nerd, I was immediately searching Wikipedia for any truthfulness behind the story, and to my surprise there most certainly was. The story is based on a real broadcast of the War of the Worlds book from H.G Wells, performed on air by Orson Welles, that went out and affected many, especially those living in rural areas. Whilst we have come a long way from believing everything we see on the television, hear on the radio and read online, there are still gullible people who are easily swayed by things they hear, especially when those messages are cultivated among peers. I believe the message is a pretty simple one; always check your sources.
‘Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated, are convinced that they are working on their own free will.’
Keep an eye out for future performances from this group as it really is worth a visit.
Brian gave this message after the conclusion of the show.
To quote the master-poet Dante: ‘From a little spark, may burst a flame.’ I, Brian J Callaghan, the founder of the Prague Harman Street Players, wishes to thank everyone who came out to our performances to see a basically before-now unknown Theater Troupe–especially those who traveled to Prague from her environs to catch us; the journalists who let the world know about us, to Caroline Wren for her posters, and Tomas Reichmann for the photos.
But, I especially want to thank the actors, set designers and technicians who took my idea and made it a reality. I do not have the words to thank this group, but I do hope that they will live on in my heart and in Jesse Cameron Baker’s video forever!
Special thanks to Duhovka Gymnazium for allowing the Prague Harman Street Players to create, rehearse, argue over minute details and put our best foot forward on their stage without question to content or the sanity of the players but to instead allow the cards to fall where they may; and a double and perhaps triple amount of thanks to Samuel Beckwith and Neil Taylor, both of whom were asked to join the Players not for theatrical purposes, but to keep me sane.
Our first production is now complete and it was more successful than we ever could have imagined. Will we revisit Radio Silence??? Of course–Halloween and the anniversary of the Orson Welles’ radio play is every year.
But absence is that common cure of love, and now it is time to try something else!!!!! (the first part was Byron, the Romantic Era poet. The second part sounds like some American Frat boy in Cancun for Spring Break–we know. But take note, we simply mean–another play is coming!!!!!!)
Needless to say: thanks again to everyone for their support!!!!
–Brian J Callaghan, Artistic Director, The Prague Harman Street Players