Victoria Fringe Theatre 2022
Roxy Theatre (2657 Quadra Street)
The show must go on! And just how well Vincent (Rob Friesen) manages the talents for Badges and Bullets depends on who you ask. This old time radio drama began as an idea to put on the tuner, but after some talk between co-creators Mitch and Jo Barnes with director Terry Rowsell, the idea to make it a live show for Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival was green lit!
“This is our gift to the Victoria Theatre Community because I tell you, we’ve had lots of support,” said Mitch of HB Productions theatre company.
I wasn’t expecting a similar experience as Casino Royale (review) back in 2015; I saw this performance at the Victoria Fringe. The difference is that instead of seeing a complete radio play from one perspective; we have two. The main story concerns how each of these talents are dreaming big. Charlotte (Jo Barnes) desires to be recognised in Hollywood, and Allen (Gerald Schieven) worries his work with this little radio station may tarnish his reputation elsewhere. Another subplot concerns the foley guy, Tom (Jesse Setka) at odds with Allen, and the feeling is mutual. Had this 45-minute performance been longer, I’m sure it could have been developed into a television show.
Meanwhile, Vince, also the producer of Badges and Bullets, cares more about keeping his operation afloat. However, when the lead. Eddie (Mitch) is supposed to carry the show, it’ll be difficult. He’s far worse than Robert Downey Jr. when he was in love with the bottle at the early part of his career. Add on top us, a real audience watching, not only do we become part of the experience, but also realise a few dirty secrets…
The show within a show is essentially Dragnet. The story here concerns a criminal in an apartment, and instead of holding a victim hostage, he’s refusing to surrender to the cops outside. They even get his mother involved; Geli Bartlett plays Betty, who plays this senior, and her running gag is that she needs glasses to read her lines. I wanted to see more from her.
All the characters are hilariously delirious in one way or another. Charlotte is perhaps the most notable. She is more important in the grander story arc, and I was waiting for her to scream, “It’s hammer time!” Jo’s performance made me think her character is ready to deck anyone because nobody is giving her dues. And it’s not because I’m familiar with that style of accent from New York’s working class, which is also Harley Quinn’s (from Batman), hence that quote. All the talents offer some variation. Whether that’s Brooklyn, Jersey or Bronx, it’s hard to tell unless you’re a New Yorker.
The setting is important because part of the American radio entertainment industry started here, and the main story concerns how CNB is struggling against RKO. The issues this little crew of misfits face go beyond keeping their station afloat. What’s presented in Badges and Bullets isn’t about War of the Worlds where we have Orsen Welles confident in giving audiences a scare. Instead, it’s WKRP in Cincinnati set in the 40s which I’m sure Jack Benny would approve of.
As for what’s next from this group, Mitch revealed he has a work planned for St. Luke’s Players Community Theatre to put on the calender come Spring 2023. As for taking this particular show on the road to other Fringe festivals, only time will tell.
4 Stars out of 5
Remaining Badges and Bullets Showtimes (Tickets are sold in advance)
- Aug 27 6:30 pm
- Aug 28 3:45 pm
- Aug 30 5:45 pm
- Sep 03 6:00 pm
- LOCATION: The Roxy Theatre (2657 Quadra St.)
About HB Productions
HB Productions first gained notice in 2019 at the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival with their critically praised production of “Dressing for Cancer,” and has been going on strong ever since. This Victoria, BC based company is led by the husband-wife team of Mitch and Jo Barnes, who began performing even earlier, at least since 2016. Not only do they have Victoria, BC based talents (with a resume spanning decades) coming on board on a per-project basis, but also, they have big plans in the future.