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Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Chills on the nightshift

29 January 2020

Monica Main gives a bravura performance as an unhappy medium in Talkback, David Zampatti says.

Review: sandpaperplanes, Talkback ·
Blue Room Theatre, January 28 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

It’s hard to imagine a more difficult challenge than convincingly bringing a supernatural thriller like Talkback to a small black-box theatre like the Blue Room’s Studio in the bump-in-do-it-bump-out frenzy of a fringe festival.

So it’s much to the credit of the young writer, Hannah Cockroft, director Elise Wilson and sound designer Isaac Diamond that they achieve so much in these difficult circumstances.

The story is so full of potential spoiler alerts that I’m not going to risk giving its games away. Suffice to say that it’s set in a radio studio during a graveyard shift hosted by a once-famous media medium, Margie Hillspeck (Monica Main), with her producer, Russell (Mararo Wangai), on the board.

Margie takes calls from various insomniac freaks, runs raffles and throws to station sponsor announcements (cleverly including actual Northbridge venues and other businesses) while Russell flicks the switches and moves the faders. Things get decidedly creepy when a guy who ran down a young girl in a high-profile accident years ago calls in, but that is just an entree for a spectral cavalcade from Margie’s past …

Main is simply terrific as Margie. She’s got the voice of a natural radio announcer and gives Margie the touchy temperament and rolled-eyed grimaces of someone who’s seen much better times. It’s a bravura performance, worth the price of a ticket by itself.

Wangai’s Russell is less compelling. Russell isn’t as distinctly drawn as Margie, and his repetitive, expletive-riddled responses to every twist and shock are lazily written and quickly become irritating. It’s a major issue, but easily corrected: with a little more care in the writing and the opportunity to develop the show’s technical effects in a less constrained environment, a return season of Talkback will really tingle some spines.

Talkback runs until 1 February 2020 at the Blue Room.

Read a Q&A with writer Hannah Cockroft here.

Pictured at top: Monica Main channels some spectral callers as a late-night radio host in Talkback.

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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