Brighton Fringe 2011
A poignant look at the human condition of loneliness and isolation but told with a wry and gentle humour
This moving one woman show draws on Emma Kilbey’s experience of working for two years as a Samaritan, which she describes as ‘fascinating, moving, funny, shocking, exasperating, upsetting and cheering’ all elements she manages to incorporate into the work. We gain a real insight into the world of the character played by Kilbey, as we see her taking call after call throughout the duration of one long, emotionally exhausting night.
The scene is set with lots of old telephone receivers dangling from the ceiling, each one representing a different caller. Emma tells us about her regular callers as she prepares for the long night ahead by laying out her huge supply of comfort food – chocolate, crisps and biscuits. From lonely old ladies to cross dressers, she will be talking to the whole spectrum of humanity tonight, but one theme unites them all – they are lonely and need to talk.
Once the phones start ringing, Kilbey barely has time to stop. We get to know her character through the conversations, as she whizzes from one call to the next. She has formulated opinions about some of her regulars – she considers ‘Boring Barbara’ to be a timewaster, and tells another caller that there might be really distressed people trying to get through. She knows that she must maintain her professional boundaries, and yet can’t help asking inappropriate questions at times.
After a while we begin to gain some sympathy with the character – towards the end of a very long call with ‘Boring Barbara’ during which she rolls her eyes and messes about she suddenly realises that her client saying she was ‘feeling a bit blue’ could actually mean something much more serious than she first thought – and with a jolt we are switched from one emotion to another, as our amusement is switched to something painful as we empathise with the guilt and remorse being experienced by Kilbey.
All this is interspersed with some lighthearted moments – we are treated to a comedy ballet performed on a swivel chair and some very funny dialogue. But Kilbey’s own problems and issues are gradually revealed as the play progresses and her chirpy facade begins to break down and she begins to talk about herself to clients. She leaves the top off her thermos and we see it steaming away, getting cold. There is nobody to tell her to put the lid on. She needs a friend, but is spending all her time looking after others and not paying any attention to her own needs.
This play is a poignant look at the human condition of loneliness and isolation but told with a wry and gentle humour, and it’s strengths grow as the drama takes over from the comedy. Kilbey is skilled at portraying the fast flowing emotional range required for this role and really comes into her own as we see increasing levels of depth being revealed within what initially came across as a rather shallow, immature and perhaps not very likeable character. The writing is both witty and moving, and the audience is left with a sense of Kilbey’s character having “shifted” to a deeper level of self-awareness, while having glimpsed into a set of different people’s lives, and are left with a salient warning against judging others too quickly.