By Carmel Shortall
As someone who does suffer from telephone anxiety (or did until smartphones with jaunty salsa ringtones came along), I was transfixed by the shrill monster ringing on a table at the start of Julia Lee Dean’s Is It Really Good to Talk? It’s hard to know who’s really the star of the show – Mat Pinckney (Mat) or the old-fashioned telephone squatting on its table in the centre of the stage. Ok – it is Mat but it’s a close-run thing.
Mat enters and gets the phone to stop ringing by waving a wooden spoon at it. But it rings again and this time the wooden spoon doesn’t work. Eventually it stops and Mat begins to muse on his telephone anxiety, how this this “stranger…interloper…uninvited guest” has taken over our lives and how difficult it is to avoid:
“There may be a frenzy of global communication outside but I have decided not to be a part of it.” And yet he is “part of it” as the phone keeps ringing and a parade of callers – from a woman calling the wrong number given her by a one-night stand to an obscene caller – wander across the stage.
The script is witty and clever and full of smart one-liners. Mat counters a question from a heavy-breathing obscene caller with “I don’t keep poultry of any kind!” There are poetic moments too.
Is It Really Good to Talk? is genuinely funny and a little nostalgic. Despite references to iPhones and texting, it is the presence of the old-fashioned telephone that dominates this reflection on the frenzy of global mass communication and essentially makes it a period piece. It harks back to simpler times. Mat decides that his own phone anxiety came about from not recognising his cockney grandmother on the phone because her ‘telephone voice’ was so posh.
This is Writer and producer, Julia Lee Dean’s second production at the Camden Fringe, having brought Limbo to the Etcetera last year. She also plays the ‘wrong number girl’ and a slightly tetchy automated sales call. Nic White is a suitably seedy obscene caller, grunting and breathing his way across the stage and he also manages to invest the role of an easily confused salesman with a level of pathos not normally associated with the profession.
Kaitlin Argeaux directs and Alicia Keyland Kidd assists.