The Edinburgh-based theatre comedy collective The Counterminers have brought something very special to the festival this year. Radio 69 features a simple set up; a single desk adorned with various bits and bobs of radio tech, complete with a band of presenters. Yet from this simple situation, the cast extract a ballistic comedy performance that hits every gag perfectly and intertwines comedy with drama in a surprisingly sophisticated way.
Few plays at the Fringe this year feature such fantastic comedic timing and delivery. The script, already very funny and intelligent on its own, is blessed to have actors of such capability bringing it to life. Little glances or changes in intonation – especially from Jamie Cushing as long-suffering cleaner Doug – take what are already fairly funny lines and transform them into jokes that will leave you giggling endlessly for the rest of the day. Some of the gags aren’t even apparent at first, making it all the funnier when the penny eventually drops, and there is a high class lesson on how to pull off perfectly judged political satire. Radio 69 is a sharply paced whirlwind of tension and great humour, consistently filling the room with laughter as the cast jump from one joke to another.
Asides being a comedic, theatrical showcase, Radio 69 has tangible drama and thematic depth that it can shine a light on between the laughs. There is an understated but prevalent LGBT+ presence, which makes itself known in the presentation of other topics like ambition, relationships and desperation. Strip away the smiles, and this is a show about a group of people fighting desperately to save their careers, having to fight personal battles with one another in the process. The fact that writers Hollie Avery, Zoë Robertson, and Holly Sargent take this scenario and find such comedy gold within it – without sacrificing dramatic tension – is a testament to the strength of their story.
Worthy of far more than an odd chortle or smile, Radio 69 is unbelievably funny and touching in equal measure. Blending drama with comedy in a way worthy of professional theatre, the actors give their all to bring this irreverent and witty show to life, and you’ll be stifling outbursts of laughter for hours afterwards.