Radio play takes the Castlemaine spotlight

A 1940s radio play has taken centre stage in Castlemaine.

Produced by the Castlemaine Theatre Company, Arsenic and Old Lace is a black comedy thriller that was written in 1939.

The play debuted on Broadway in 1941 before being adapted into a film starring Cary Grant in 1944.

Director John Rowland said the company had worked hard to create an authentic radio play atmosphere.

“What the audience hears is a genuine radio play with characters gathered around an old-looking microphone,” he said.

“The sound effects are live and the performers sit on stage the whole time.”

CTC’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace opened at the Faulder Watson Hall last weekend.

“It is about this family in Brooklyn in 1940s with two sweet aunties who have a bad habit of bumping people off,” Mr Rowland said.

“The nephew finds a body and discovers their habit while the ladies believe they are being charitable by helping kill lonely, old people.

“It ends up as one barmy family trying to reconcile the fact they have all these bodies everywhere.”

The show’s cast includes Remy Brannon, Peter Byrne, Val Case, Seamus Curtain Magee, Daniel Keohan, Bronwyn Lamb, Gus Saunders, Michael Treloar, David Watson, Hamish Whitcroft McGlade and Briega Young.

Mr Rowland has a background in directing radio plays and said the show had been well received in its opening weekend.

“It went really well. Last year we did a radio play called Ghost Train, which was a resounding success and people wanted more,” he said.

“There has been a bit of a resurgence in audio drama thanks to podcasts. 

“These days radio plays record a scene a time, but plays done in the time we're emulating all went live to air.”

Even the art of sound effects – or “Foley” work – has been carefully planned with performers helping provide the audio to go with the play.

“Foley is still done because of film but most soundtracks have their soundtracks remade, radio plays don’t really do it like it was done in the past,” Mr Rowland said.

“A lot of things (for sound effects) have to be made. We can't assemble a whole staircase or walk in gravel.

“So that has to be replicated in miniature and is mic’d very closely.”

CTC’s Arsenic and Old Lace is on at the Faulder Watson Hall in Barker Street, Castlemaine on July 14 and 15 at 7.30pm and July 16 at 2.30pm.

It will also perform at the Newham Mechanics Institute on July 22 at 8pm and July 23 at 2pm. Log on to www.castlemainetheatrecompany.com for tickets.