What does a hosted radio play look like?
The stove was still hot from our cooking and the evening air was getting cold when the doorbell rang twice. I looked out and saw 6 people in the get-ups of the 1930s; mobsters, torch-singers, hard-boiled detectives – and even some gaudy looking plastic Thomson Machine guns. This was my crowd and they were expected.
I invited them in and, by the light of one swinging electric globe dangling from the ceiling, directed them to the table sitting in the middle of the room. It had been laid out for eight places and a script sat on each plate.
It was at this point that “she” walked into the room – a dazzling blonde with come-hither eyes and a voice like velvet. It was easy to see why I’d married her. She gazed levelly at our assembled guests.
“Welcome to the performance.” she purred. “Please take a seat.”
My eyes lingered on her curves for a moment too long but then moved to the table where the script waited. “The Cult of the Teeth”… it sounded interesting. We spent the next ten minutes or so sorting out who would read the parts for which characters.
Ben and Beppie volunteered for the main roles of Tess and Trent, while the rest of us divided the minor roles amongst ourselves. I ended up playing the Narrator and (the decidedly lecherous) Alasdair Standish. Drinks were served and we nibbled on some “Sacrificial Scallops” (a recipe supplied with the script) while we glanced through the script figuring out where we would be called upon to contribute some lines. A box of odds and ends sat in the middle of the table, obviously for making the sound effects. We decided we’d each take a turn, starting with me.
Somewhere a Saxaphone wailed a brief riff of soulful jazz. My wife had decided to call the evening to order with a piece of thirties style mood music, obviously intended to pass as our opening theme. I reached into the box and began tapping what I hoped would sound like footfalls on a piece of wood.
“Star City on a cold February evening, one month after the events of ‘The Alligator Menace'” I began narrating, putting on a fake 30s American accent that would have made Bogart cry. “Our heroes, Trent Stone and Tess Carter, approach one of the city’s finer dining establishments…”
And then Beppie, giving her best attempt at a no-nonsense reporter’s voice spoke up. “Aw hell, Trent, I hate this!”
Ben, playing our lantern jawed hero replied “Oh, come on Tess. Maynard is a friend.”
“Hmpf,” she responded. “Maynard Havelock the Third is a glory hound and buffoon. If he loves anything in the world more than himself, it’s catching a glimpse of his own reflection. And whenever we have these dinners he gets drunk and starts staring down the front of my dress.”
And so we were away, delivering lines, hamming it up, and laughing as we tried to come up with sound effects to suit the drama.And so we were away, delivering lines, hamming it up, and laughing
At the end of the first act I got up and went to the kitchen. It was time to bring in the first course; Cultist Corn and Chicken pie with Ritual Corn and Beans on the side. Reading must work up an appetite because we demolished it in no time at all.
Eager to see what would happen next, we got back to our reading. Tess and Trent (performed with over-the-top bravado by our guests Ben and Beppie – and ably supported by the rest of us at our enthusiastic and hammy best) were getting deeper and deeper into hot water until at last, causing a collective groan of dismay that rang around the table, they found themselves captured by a vicious South American Death Cult.
The cliff-hanger caused all of us to eat faster as we enjoyed a dessert of “Ceremonial Cobb Apple Pie” during the break between the second and third acts.
Dessert having been demolished as effectively as the main course, a sense of quiet expectation fell over our little group as we prepared to step back into character and read the remainder of the play. Needless to say, the climax didn’t disappoint. High adventure, suspense and mystery, combined with enthusiastic attempts at voice acting and some hilarious sound effect improvisation, all came together to build a wonderful night we were not going to forget any time soon. When at last we reached for the tea and coffee there were many expressions of regret that the night was coming to an end.
While we waved our guests goodbye, the dazzling blonde at my side whispered “What do you say, buster? Could you stand to do this again some time?”
“Sure sister”, I responded in my best Bogart. “I’m in. For keeps!” And I winked for effect.
They say there are a million stories in the big city and, together, we’d just enjoyed one of them. With that thought rattling around in my head I slouched off to the kitchen to make a start on the dishes.