I Only Came To Use The Phone
Yashchin Company @ Queens Theatre
10:00pm, Sun 16 Mar 2008
And so we come to this, the final event of ff2008. And, while the world outside was gradually cooling, the glorious Queens Theatre was still stickily hot – and that may have kept the crowd numbers down. Hell, “crowd” is more than a little generous – there was only a dozen or so people in the audience – which meant that cast-and-crew probably outnumbered us. Again.
One of a series of short stories by Columbian Gabriel García Márquez, I Only Came To Use The Phone was an unsettling piece of work for me, because it plays on one of my biggest fears – of being mistaken for something that I’m not, and mistakenly incarcerated. This is the plight of Maria, whose car breaks down in the middle of an isolated stretch of road; hitching a ride to civilisation on a bus headed for a mental asylum, she is assumed to be a patient at the destination. Her jealous husband, assuming she has run off with another man, refuses her only opportunity to contact him, and she is trapped in the asylum, pleading “innocence” – but then again, don’t all the patients do that? Initially, Maria does whatever she can to leave – debasing herself, sleeping with one of the guards – but, after her husband eventually does find her and, on the advice of her doctor, leaves her in the asylum, she slips into the role of a patient.
Despite the dialogue being often drowned out by the plethora of fans attempting to keep the Queens Theatre from being overbearingly stifling, this was an arresting bit of theatre. Netta Yashchin’s direction is great, with fantastic use of space. The cast are better-than-solid, led from the front by Astrid Pill’s stunning performance; Susie Skinner’s cat was a source of great delight, too, and the quietly studied Stephen Sheehan also puts in a blinder. But why do people rave about Paulo Castro? His acting appears wooden, his English renders some dialogue near-unintelligible… seriously, this man receives plaudits a-plenty, and I’ve no idea why.
But that little gripe is neither here nor there; what matters is that I Only Came To Use The Phone ticks all the right boxes for me, with a (mostly) excellent ensemble cast making a satisfyingly bleak story come to life. There’s some utterly nutball scenes, a little bit of live music, and wacky characters abound. I love this sort of stuff, and would wallow in its uncomfortable, scatterbrained misery for days if I could.