OTR - Reviews of Call Me!

Call Me!

Wed 8th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Thomas Stell

at 02:03 on 13th Aug 2012

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'Call Me!' is a piece about love and the romantic relationships of ordinary people. Scenes alternate between a couple who go from a slight mutual prickliness to warmth through disagreements and a suspected pregnancy, and three women damaged by earlier love affairs. We first meet the latter on their nights out, when each drunkenly calls a former boyfriend and leaves him a voice mail message. Things become increasingly difficult for them and they try to find inner peace with a visit to Sandy Morris, a self-help enthusiast.

The story of the couple seems to be about the discovery that one’s love-life does not fulfil all one’s wishes, but that life is worth living nonetheless. On what seems the eve of their wedding, the woman reads out a description of her perfect husband that she wrote at fifteen - blond, muscular and does charity work. Her actual husband will not be what she wanted, but he will be what she needs. A similar theme is apparent when one of the other women confesses that she wanted her life to be a rom-com, with music playing in the background, as she puts it. The possibility that an ex-lover may be less than one deserves, as another girl decides, is raised hurriedly at the end.

The moral that life is not a fairy-tale would be old-hat even if it were better presented. As it is, it is also rather confused because we cannot see what we are supposed to laugh at and what we are not. Sandy is shown to be shallow, in her clichéd exhortation to find one’s voice, and we are invited to mock her because of this. But it is at her meeting that the protagonists do begin to tell each about other their experiences and disappointments, and it is she who describes the necessity of trusting others, that we are not stronger alone. Do we conclude then that there was something in Sandy’s teaching?

Nor is the acting first-rate – the face of the man in the couple is stuck in one of those drama-by-numbers “pleading” expressions and none of the performances seem to have any emotional truth or indeed any life in them. Even if the acting were not so bad, the fact that the characters are so ordinary and apparently unaware of the sublime (for none of the love affairs mentioned or portrayed are the result of feelings any more than commonplace), made me consider them lacking in interest. In a play where so much depends upon our sympathising with the characters this is quite a problem, and there is certainly not enough comedy here for that in itself to make the thing worthwhile.

According to the show’s website we “might recognise a few [of the protagonists] in ourselves”. Perhaps some of the audience did, but I do not think anyone sensitive, intelligent and passionate could have done so. "Call Me!" is of an admittedly unpretentious genre that I have no great love for, but it does not seem to me to be a very good specimen from this genre - it is not especially well thought out or very well executed.

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Pia Dhaliwal

at 10:15 on 13th Aug 2012

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There is nothing quite like a rom-com romance, and if By The Slice Theatre Company is to be believed, there really is nothing like a rom-com romance. Because they don’t exist. Yet while this non-existence is underscored quite pointedly in 'Call Me!', said non-existence isn’t presented as being necessarily a bad thing.

Two separate stories interweave each other in Sarah Adams’ script – in one, initial friends Jenny (Laura Cope) and Mike (Matthew Stead) awkwardly embark on a new relationship after drunkenly sleeping together; in the other, initial friends Cheryl (Christine Clare) and Natasha (Sarah Adams – yes, also the writer) plus one sort-of acquaintance Claire (Claire Dean) forge an unlikely bond in the face of mutual relationship problems and a slightly bizarre love therapist.

While the stories themselves might sound less than groundbreaking, the respective narratives and the relationship developments therein were borne along well by a combination of solid writing, casting, acting, and direction. Cheryl, Natasha and Clare’s initial monologue phone calls (made in varying stages of inebriation and heartbreak) to the men in their lives set out the tone of the play excellently, and at several points prompted knowing laughter from the audience. Indeed, the overall honesty and humour of the script, coupled with the authenticity of the characters, kept the show engaging – although there was the occasional joke that missed rather than hit. And although Katie McArdle’s performance as hippie love guru Sandy Morris was amusing, the character felt somewhat twee and her inclusion a little too contrived compared to the rest of the story.

However, these flaws shouldn’t really detract from what was, on the whole, a good set of performances. The juxtaposition of Cheryl, Natasha and Clare’s situations and expectations to Jenny and Mike’s decidedly non-romantic-comedyesque yet really rather sweet coupling served to drive home the show’s admittedly well-covered yet well-meaning message of balancing self-acceptance and taking risks in relationships. The space was likewise utilised well and the scene transitions slickly handled, although the tech and props were kept minimal – nothing about 'Call Me!' overreached itself, or pretended to be something it wasn’t. While it admittedly didn't say anything new or different, it was nonetheless a light-hearted, amusing and relatable take on relationships – nothing more, perhaps, but certainly nothing less either.

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