REVIEW: Radio 69, The Counterminers, Edinburgh Fringe 2021 ★★★★☆

Radio 69 tells the story of a small community radio station in the fictional town of Frogsburgh in the Scottish Borders. It’s a show that sets out to prove there’s nowt as queer as folk. As a former resident of the Scottish Borders myself and a comedy fan, I can tell you that I was dead excited to see how this show played out and boy, did The Counterminers deliver.

This show is an absolute fucking riot and I mean that in the best way possible. We follow hosts, the invulnerable Ash and the careerist Amy, as they try to save their radio station from being sold off by Hugh Jego (one of the many hysterical one liners in this show) to fund his new IPA brewery. They’re joined by stoic traffic reporter Frankie and her wife, the hippy-dippy “holistic weather reporter” Pippa, who eventually find themselves in a spot of marital bother.

Meanwhile, the station’s janitor Doug is hatching his own plan to enact revenge on Mr. Jego whilst doing mop-based dance routines to 80s classics. I mean, if I haven’t sold the show to you already, how can I? The plot takes twists and turns through Ash and Amy’s complicated personal lives, the return of local celebrity Filthy Phil (who wears a cowboy hat with the word ‘PHILTHY’ emblazoned on it throughout) from the Costa del Madrid and a surprise interview with a very important guest that might just save Radio 69 from the brink.

Let’s get into the good stuff, and there’s plenty of it. The characterisation in this play is next level. As an ensemble piece, it does well to give exposure to every character and all of their quirks and curiosities. There are a few stand out performances. Emer Williams’ Pippa is continually hysterical as she gives us little glimpses into her crazed psyche. She reminded me very much of a whole bunch of people I know from the Borders, which is a funny little bonus for any locals travelling in to the big city for this show.

Jamie Cushing’s Doug left this particular audience in stitches and earned several rounds of applause. They were well deserved. He evokes the best parts of a pantomime villain and commands the eyes of the audience whenever he is on stage. Tom Creswell’s Filthy Phil is crass, clowny and charming in the way any local celebrity is – with a side of excellently performed cringeworthy seediness.

This show is fantastically farcical and all the right doses of silly. It does well to maintain a consistently bubbly and upbeat energy throughout. It is peppered with short interluding radio adverts which are periodically absurd and always hilarious. The show creators made the interesting decision to co-direct the show together, with the company presently under the general Creative Directorship of Hollie Avery (who also plays Ash in this show). This collaborative creative process has paid off, as you can tell that Radio 69 is a melting pot of ideas that have been tried and tested well.

Beneath it’s humour there is a solid and quite interesting philosophy. The show takes advantage of some real life silly laws to show just how bizarre the world, and people, can be. Several pieces of the more emotive drama in the show are based on people acting irrationally, drunkenly or impulsively. A lot of the humour evokes the oddities of the characters, and their quirks work well to make you invest in them.

Towards the end there is a noticeable slight drop in the quality of the storytelling – as the details of the “event” are laid out, things move quickly and it’s a little hard to follow. This is merely a blemish on an incredible production.

Go see Radio 69, it’s a side-splitting farce that’s more intelligent than first meets the eye. You’ll laugh every minute, feel exhilirated throughout and be left wanting to hear the rest of Filthy Phil’s album.

Recommended Drink: An IPA, of course, make sure you can really taste the blueberry infusion.

Catch Radio 69 at the Space @ Symposium Hall Main Theatre until August 21st. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.