I'm of the generation that remembers The James Whale Radio Show, his confrontational style with phone in guests and the way he put the phone down on callers he didn't like or grew impatient with. It was sport to try and get on the show and say something rude before getting cut off. In Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio - getting its London premiere after 30 years - Barry Champlain (Matthew Jure) is a Cleveland shock jock in the same vein.
He's intelligent, knowledgeable with whip crack wit and retorts. He plays devil's advocate with dizzying contrariness fuelled by drink and lines of cocaine. He loathes his fans almost as much as he loathes himself and treats those around him with equal contempt.
On the eve of his show getting syndicated we watch him through the glass of the (brilliantly realised) radio studio. The show runs at lightning speed rattling through callers that represent the underbelly of hate and prejudice through to the inane, odd and tedious, and yet simultaneously we watch the slow motion car crash that is Champlain heading for self destruct.
Champlain's problem's begin with a verbal run in with a Nazi sympathiser - who would have thought that would still be pertinent 30 years on? - and reaches a climax with a teenage crank caller Kent (Cel Spellman). The encounter with the teen challenges Champlain's purpose, role and celebrity exposing the contradictions of his celebrity, behaviour and beliefs.
Matthew Jure is excellent playing Champlain's discordant personality from motormouth offensive, to despairing, disappointed and exposed. Director Sean Turner builds the pace, taking Barry to the edge but it feels like a slightly gentler fall than it probably should, particularly given what has gone before this, I suspect, is the more to do with the play than the production.
Talk Radio is a roller coaster ride of laughs, shocks and tension and I'm giving it four stars. It's two hours long including an interval and you can see it at the Old Red Lion in Islington until September 23.