Bringing a show to the Festival Fringe is hard work, so I make it a rule of thumb to review each individual piece of theatre on its own merits and not in comparison to the inordinately huge competition. This piece, Hello? Hello. from Rove St. Productions, was an interesting concept that didn’t quite come off, but the actors did what they could with a rather weak script and (I’m going to say it again) an awful venue.
In the present day, a young student phones what she thinks is a helpline, but it turns out it’s a wrong number. As the call progresses awkwardly (or is that just the script?), it transpires this is a newspaper office and the caller hangs up abruptly. It looks as if this is not going to be the end of the conversation. At the back of the stage there is a wall calendar, which shows how quickly time advances as various players flip over the cards. Yet there is something rather anachronistic about the newspaper office – the old-fashioned phone-ring, the way the receptionist is dressed, the décor – which is never made clear. Also, the receptionist is dealing with some outdated attitudes, particularly from her fiancé and her sister.
The newsdesk and receptionist remain stage right all along while the student goings-on are played out stage left, with subsidiary characters making their exits and entrances rather unsuccessfully through the audience. And the phone calls continue, with student Thea (Cecile Durel) gaining comfort from her confidante Cassandra (Victoria J Valliere), who also battles with her own life events. Several other narrative threads are played out – although the acting is not particularly fluid, the cast try their best to bring the script to life. But the overall outcome is a confusing drama that only seems to come together at the denouement, when the two accidental phone friends agree to meet at 4pm in “the station”. At this point, the clock – or rather the dates on the wall calendar – is turned back and the anachronism is revealed. Although the potential to learn from one another is there, the two protagonists never meet, but one presumes that this strange connection across time has enriched their lives in some way. The lines “You aren’t alone, we both have these moments” could have been spoken by either of the women.
This piece would have benefitted from a whole lot of dramaturgy, but as a Fringe play, it is what it is and the company should be given some accolade for putting on a play in the cut-throat world of fringe theatre in a pokey hotel room on North Bridge.
You can see Hello? Hello. at theSpace on North Bridge, Fife Theatre until 23rd August on various dates at 15:35. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/