Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Wed 27th February – Sat 2nd March 2013


Emily Handley

at 09:47 on 28th Feb 2013



An exchange that would surely win the prize for the most awkward or unusual date ever can be found in the ADC show Are You Sitting Comfortably?, where a lovelorn radio DJ brings a bouquet of sunflowers for his loved one. So far, so normal - except they can’t actually see each other. They can only hear each other through their radios. And when he tells her about the flowers, all she can say is: “They sound lovely.”

This doomed love affair between the FM man and AM lady is brought to us by the writing team at Trinity’s Magpie and Stump Comedy Society through a mixture of sketches and a soundtrack filled with an eclectic mix of KC and the Sunshine Band, Paloma Faith and Paul Simon. Harriet Cartledge shines as one half of the lovesick duo who, despite their tricky romantic situation, both persist in bringing sunshine to the ears of their listeners through the airwaves. Cartledge shows a fantastic talent for accents and impersonation through the range of characters that she rotates for her radio show, effectively turning her into a one-woman Radio 4 as she treats us to delicious snippets of The Archers, religious programmes and the news. The clever stage design from Rosa Uddoh and Alec Gibson sees the ADC’s main performance space transformed into a radio station, complete with turntables and sound equipment, with one table split into two to show the division between the AM lady and FM man, while they lead their lives in parallel.

Tom Stuchfield plays the resolutely upbeat FM man, who continues to hold a candle to the object of his affection and who is not above resorting to good old-fashioned chivalry, as we discover later. The versatility and expressiveness shown in Stuchfield’s acting are one of the highlights of the production, as his character’s English reserve and stoicism are abandoned in favour of exuberance and wit while on the radio. In one scene, his irrepressible chirpiness is brought to the fore as he reports from the scene of The District Line Derby - a particularly fraught contest that sees workers competing to see who can make it to their workplace the fastest, in “yet another coffee-fuelled day of commuting.”

Despite the FM man’s relentlessly lively nature serving him well for interactions with his listeners, his patience is tested with the arrival of Deck (Marcus Martin), whose quickness and excellent comic timing transform him into the perfect pantomime villain. Deck is determined to win the affections of the conscientious AM lady, making Stuchfield’s mission to woo her even more difficult as the impossible love affair is turned into a love triangle. An inspired use of radio puns in Deck’s declarations of love for his paramour indicates the high quality of the writing in the show. He tells her that he fantasises about their future life together “in my little cassette desk, with my little wife joyfully re-threading my tapes”, showing how his humdrum existence in the radio can have its upsides with the companionship of his beloved.

The radio puns keep coming thick and fast, yet the actors’ sincerity and guileless joy elevate them above hackneyed clichés. The hero’s excitement when he declares that he and his love are “on the same wavelength” was met with collective sighs of satisfaction rather than derision among the audience, waiting to find out if the romantic leads would end up together at long last. An evening of surreal sketches that sees the audience enveloped in fake smoke, swashbuckling pirates pitted against some drum and bass and an inventive rap routine are just some of the highlights of this ambitious and charming one-hour tour de force.


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