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Contact at the Golden Goose Theatre

A thought occurred to me in the first scene, a telephone call Anna (Hannah Harquart) puts into a contact centre, answered by Ben (Adam Deary): had this been an authentic phone call, the audience might well have been subjected to an array of menus and sub-menus (press 1 for this, 2 for that, 3 for something else) followed by at least a half-hour wait, in which hold music would be intermittently interrupted by recorded messages telling the caller how important their call is to the organisation, or otherwise fobbing the caller off by referring them to a ‘frequently asked questions’ page on the company website.

Contact
Contact

That, of course, does not make for good theatre. But neither does the sheer amount of ambiguity in the show, which seems to travel as though it were an aeroplane in a holding pattern queuing to land at Heathrow Airport. There’s not much else to do but wait it out whilst pleasantries are exchanged, and some light-hearted banter somehow turns into an invitation for Ben to go over to Anna’s flat. Both parties say they’ve only just met, and they’ve only just met over the phone. Evidently, there’s more to it than that, and it takes two to tango.

The setting makes a deep, meaningful conversation awkward at best, and absurd at worst. The storyline eventually starts to get interesting – there’s a way to go, as you know, after finally touching down, navigating through the airport, collecting luggage and then getting to one’s actual destination.

For all the suspense behind Anna’s motives in being so friendly and chatty to a call centre employee, before playing hard to get when he does come over, all is revealed so quickly and so bluntly that Anna very quickly transforms from an impenetrable enigma to a sad and obsessed individual, fixated on getting her own back for events that occurred some years before.

A narrative detail involving a false assertion that she teaches family practice law to primary school children for a living makes one wonder what else isn’t the truth (and whether Anna ought to switch careers from law to politics). It is easy to sit in judgement and wonder why on earth, if what went on was as bad as Anna says it was, did she not approach the authorities. But it takes a certain amount of courage and tenacity to do that and going down the criminal justice system route requires a lot of time and resources, plus it runs the risk of garnering unwanted media attention, which is (without giving it all away) is what Anna was subjected to in the first place.

It’s an explorative piece of theatre, but one that flits from topic to topic in the first half. Patience is rewarded in the second, even if accusations and counteraccusations make the dialogue in a later scene sound like an argument in a soap opera. The ending is far from decisive, leaving the audience to determine (or, indeed, not) what happens next between the two. What does transpire during the performance is too unethical to fall under ‘restorative justice’ but is nonetheless an attempt to bring closure to the lasting aftermath of a previous critical incident.

But it needs to be more engaging: perhaps if there were a number of phone calls over a longer narrative time period, as opposed to returned call after returned call in a single afternoon, this would better demonstrate Anna’s skills in negotiation and persuasion. Some asides to the audience may also have helped, to gain a better understanding of inner thoughts that either party would not want to say directly to the other. The show has potential, tackling as it does some relevant and contemporary issues.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Contact, the play that was written to make you delete dating apps. (Just meet strangers the good old fashioned way – via cold call)

A brand new darkly comedic play that questions how we’re supposed to really ‘connect’ with human beings. Contact also explores what it is to be held accountable for your actions (even at 15) and the debate around ‘cancel culture’ as well as consent. Is consent a purely physical thing?

Produced by Harquart Pearce a brand new dynamic, modern day, multi-disciplinary Creator and Producer of Film and Stage Productions. Two women who want to make work that is worth watching.

Directed By Evie Ayres-Townshend, Evie’s latest work this year includes Sweet Potato: A Queer short film and ‘My Dead Boyfriend’s Girlfriend’ a short dark comedy.

Creative Team:
Director – Evie Ayres-Townshend
Producer – Jessica Pearce
Set Design – Roisin Jenner
Lighting Design – Atikah Zainidi
Actor – Ben – Adam Deary
Actor – Anna – Hannah Harquart

14th-16th December 2021
https://www.goldengoosetheatre.co.uk/

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