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Speed Dial Pleasance Dome (Queen Dome) Edinburgh

Set in the days of rotary telephones (despite the play’s title) and before answerphones were commonplace, James Cartwright, known as The Professor (Hamish Lloyd Barnes), or even simply Prof, makes arrangements to meet Flora (Genevieve Sabherwal), his daughter. They haven’t seen each other for some time, and so both parties are looking forward to catching up. It’s not long, however, before she is kidnapped and the Prof, understandably, is keen to do whatever is necessary to ensure her safety and release.

Speed Dial, Credit Harry Plowden.
Speed Dial, Credit Harry Plowden.

What then transpires is borderline absurdist but is also great fun. There’s a fair amount of physical theatre, too, such that Barnes’ bright red shirt gradually changed colour as the show went on by way of perspiration, an indication, whether by default or by design (or both) of the Prof’s increasing desperation to get to the bottom of what is going on. Things get extremely convoluted, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had. There’s a dark secret about the Dean (Tulio Campanale) that the Groundskeeper (Ellie Dillon-Reams) knows about that could prove life-changing if it were published by Lucy (also Sabherwal), the editor of the university’s student newspaper, always and forever looking for next on-campus piece of gossip.

It doesn’t help, either, that the Prof’s daughter is kidnapped during finals week, and that a new novel by an IC Drake is proving so popular the Dean, perhaps on instruction from his superiors, orders the Prof include it in the exam for his module, giving the students inadequate time to read, analyse and prepare. It sounds ridiculous, but having been to university it wouldn’t surprise me if this narrative element were based on a true story. Terri (Evangeline Dickson) is a hoot as the keenest of keen students.

The choreography (Zak Nemorin) is lively and energetic, and as far as takeaway messages go, there’s something to be said about maintaining regular contact with those whom we love. I was baffled by elements in the storyline but amazed by the slick and stylish movements of the cast. Exhausting to watch but wholly worthwhile.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Amongst the spires, spikes and sideburns of a 1970s university, a lonely Professor waits for a call.
When he’s chased by the ringing of every passing phone, an ominous voice sets a series of mysterious puzzles that stand between him and his missing daughter. Dodgy Deans, grumbling Groundskeepers and swotty students are all suspects as the Professor capers across campus to uncover whodunnit and why.

The Professor – Ned Cooper
The Dean – Tullio Campanale
Lucy/Flora – Genevieve Sabherwal
Willis/The Groundskeeper – Hamish Lloyd Barnes
Terri – Evangeline Dickson
Director Ollie Norton-Smith
Writers Ollie Norton-Smith, Hamish Lloyd Barnes, Joe Large
Choreographer Zak Nemorin
Set Designer Ellie Roser
Sound Designer Oscar Maguire
Lighting Designer Ollie Norton-Smith

Wednesday 3rd – Monday 29th August 2022 (not 16th), 14:20
Running Time 75 minutes
Location Pleasance Dome (Queen Dome), Potterow, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL

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