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My Radio Heart

Jeanti St Clair

A cast of six abled and differently abled performers explore how we look for love and friendship in virtual worlds.
My Radio Heart

 Lydian Dunbar and Phoebe Rose. Image supplied. 

Looking: it’s what we do everyday.

We look for lost socks, for new love, friends and those happy states of being: it is part of our bedrock of living. And increasingly, in our digital twenty-first century world, we look for love and friendship in the virtual and online world.  

My Radio Heart explores these themes with a cast of six abled and differently abled performers, including Lismore-based electronica band, Tralala Blip.

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The project came out of the Generator development program run by Lismore-based NORPA and is a co-production with Sydney innovators, Urban Theatre Projects.

As much a process as a production, My Radio Heart is a result of 18 months of creative development workshops and rehearsals with writer/director Rosie Dennis of UTP, which engaged 80 people living with a disability.

The resulting production takes the audience on an hour-long multimedia and musical adventure into a virtual world. The audience is seated as the ‘fourth wall’ against the performance space, making the experience an immersive one. You may as well be sitting at the dining table with the performers.

Adding to the closeness is video designer Sam James’ projected virtual worlds, co-created with local primary schools. The lush forest and beachside landscape projections surround the stage on three sides, and the stereo electronica music of Tralala Blip blips and gurgles through the speakers.

Firstly, we meet Mat, a young man who has lost his parents. To find them, he creates a virtual world and enlists four avatars, in the style of Marvel Comic’s X-Men, to help him. There’s Lydian, the blonde bespeckled romantic looking for love; the robotic Zac in a full-face motorcycle helmet is known as the seeker and persistent in his looking. Their two helpers: Claudie, the keeper who makes tea and fusses over the two boys, and Randolf, the caretaker who fiddles with electronic devices on the set walls.

All the while, Mat issues directions to his avatars as a voiceover in the virtual world, encouraging them to help unlock the mystery of his disappeared parents.

But not all goes as planned. When Lydian dons a pair of virtual reality goggles, he and the audience is transported into a lush otherworld. There he finds the beautiful Phoebe who he falls in love with and runs away to join. It falls to the others to help Mat with his search.

Opening night was clearly a challenging but triumphant experience for the three performers with disabilities, who, despite their experience performing in band Tralala Blip, have had no experience with theatrical performance. Yet, no one missed his mark or line of dialogue, which is a tribute to both performers and director Rosie Dennis of Urban Theatre Projects.

Dennis has created a supported performance space for the performers with disabilities by providing voice-over guidance during the performance, and this fits well as ‘just another’ avatar voice in Mat’s virtual world.  

The production moves at a leisurely and naturalistic pace, which adds gentleness to the storytelling and space for the plentiful humorous and quirky moments to hit home with the appreciative audience.

The result is a moving, sweet and universal story about young adults looking for love, friendship and innocence in online and virtual worlds.  

My Radio Heart is on its way to Sydney for a one-week season at Urban Theatre Projects in Bankstown from April 9.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

My Radio Heart

A NORPA presentation, co-produced by NORPA and Urban Theatre Projects
Writer/director: Rosie Dennis
Video artist: Samuel James
Sound designer: Lawrence English
Oo-sound designer: Randolf Reinmann
Cast: Mathew Daymond, Performer & member of Tralala Blip
Zac Mifsud, Performer & member of Tralala Blip
Lydian Dunbar, Performer & member of Tralala Blip
Phoebe Rose, Performer & member of Tralala Blip
Claudie Frock, Performer
Randolf Reinmann, Performer & member of Tralala Blip

Lismore City Hall, Bounty St
www.norpa.org.au
27 – 29 March

Bankstown Arts Centre, Bankstown
www.urbantheatre.com.au
9 – 12 April

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Jeanti St Clair lives in NSW's Northern Rivers region where she teaches journalism at Southern Cross University and runs the Lismore Ukulele Club. Jeanti is also the arts reviewer for ABC North Coast, and has written on and broadcast arty stuff since forever, like back in the '80s.

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