‘Bring-bring. Bring-bring.’ As the audience walk into the room, a phone is ringing. Five minutes pass. It keeps ringing.
UCLU Runaground’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s morbidly humorous play, opens by tapping into the unease that an unanswered phone prompts. Subjected to repetitive ringing, the audience empathise with Jean’s frustration at a man’s failure to answer his phone—a frustration followed by horror as Jean realises that the man she is addressing is dead.
Concerned with the consequences of interaction between humans and technology, the show ricochets between darker and lighter moments. As Jean becomes tangled up with the deceased Gordon’s family, her desire to keep his phone—and thus part of him—alive turns into an increasingly proprietary attitude towards his legacy, allowing the production to explore the desire to create satisfying narratives out of other people’s lives. The theme of mortality is central, and a surreal scene where Gordon discusses his last day displays Howard Horner’s talent as an actor. Loud and aggressive, he conveys an energy that is emphasised by the scene’s stark lighting.
The production has flaws: a meal scene is stilted, with characters hovering awkwardly on the stage, and while some of the digressions on technology are integrated well into the action, others seem forced. It is ultimately a deeply odd play, fragmented by rapid changes of mood, but this unpredictability manages to be an asset rather than a fault. Bringing a sense of thrill to proceedings, it leaves the audience uncertain what is coming next.