A nostalgic trip from a quartet who are at least making themselves smile
If that old trope is true that people become more right wing as they get older, can it be the case that a comedian's humour turns lamer as the years go by? There's no doubt that all four members of Radio Active have had their moments in the funny sun: Helen Atkinson-Wood was Mrs Miggins (she of the pie shop) in Blackadder the Third, Michael Fenton Stevens appeared as a vicar in Julia Davis' creepily amusing Nighty Night, Philip Pope was in Channel 4's Who Dares Wins and, you know, wrote 'The Chicken Song', while Angus Deayton's dry humour almost became a genre of its very own.
And yet here they all are in this Fringe comeback affair (Radio Active first appeared here in 1979), delivering a series of routines which can best be described as 'very Radio 4'. Kicking off with a screen showing time dialling back to the early 80s as the quartet vocalise a mixture of news headlines and scurrilous rumours, they then arrive on stage (scripts in hand which, while accurately portraying the recording of a radio programme, will hopefully be flung aside once the run gets into its stride) to make flesh some gourmet tips, a right-to-reply show and a deliberately clunky Dickensian drama.
They all seem to be having fine old time, but the writing is just a little too tame, even, you suspect, for this afternoon crowd of the gang's contemporaries. There's a poignant moment in honour of the late Geoffrey Perkins who was part of the original line-up and the chaps get to do their Hee Bee Gee Bees thing with a brutal attack on Status Quo's tedious longevity while Pope digs out his Bob Dylan impersonation. The Fringe has always warmly welcomed back alumni from its archive, but some things are often best left in the past.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug (not 15), 4.20pm, £12–£15 (£11.50–£13.50).