‘TALKBACK’ is the brilliant debut play from Hannah Cockroft. Hannah is a young UWA graduate, who with the help of Australian Theatre for Young People and Barking Gecko has created this innovative, gripping and most believable story.
This fast moving 55-minute spooky two-hander play has been brought to the FRINGE WORLD 2020 programme by ‘Summer Nights’ and Sandpaperplane, the company who in 2018 brought us the popular multidisciplinary installation piece ‘Feedback’.
This Ben Thomas production is being presented in The Blue Room Studio at 53 James Street, Northbridge nightly at 9.00 until 1st February. Yes, one blink and it will be gone! But the play will live for decades to come.
The scene: a low budget FM radio studio somewhere in the city.
The set was designed by Dani Chilton. The walls and floor are matte black. In one corner is the producer’s console and tech equipment. A make-your-own coffee area is behind him. Near the front of the stage on the other side is the presentation desk, complete with a superb Blue Yeti USB microphone.
The Brenda Lee tracks of the early 60s are blended with the eerie, dark and morphing sound design from Isaac Diamond. Chilling and disturbing.
Lighting designer Saint Clair has created the standard warm and welcoming radio studio lighting, but then had to produce some very eerie effects which, by the incontinence of the lady sitting next to me in the front row, certainly worked.
Heinrich Krause created some important artistic images. Morgan Moroney was responsible for the visual story projected onto the rear wall of the stage.
The show was smoothly Stage Managed by Zoe Martino.
It is early morning on the radio station’s graveyard shift and another episode of the daily serial about the adventures of two daring young girls is coming to an end.
Smartly dressed in a long, flowing red patterned kaftan with matching accessories, is Margie Hillspeck (Monica Main) who was once Australia’s most famous medium but is now a fraud, who will do anything to retain her good ratings and stop notoriety. Margaret, who is finishing her newspaper crossword looks up and is cued by her producer, Russell (Mararo Wangai).
‘ Welcome to This is Second Chance Farewells! Where we help you contact lost loved ones.’
Margie answers letters and starts to give advice to the fans and weird cranks telephoning in. Then the lights flicker and the studio is cast into darkness. Today is not going to be an easy one.
The play’s director is the well-established Elise Wilson, a local theatre-maker with several great productions to her name. A two-hander can be tedious, especially in such a confined space, but the driving strength of Russell the producer was the ideal counter to the presenter’s insincerity and insecurity.
Dramaturg Jackson Used helped build the surrealism and mystical intrigue.
Monica Main does not do many shows, but when she does, they are always most memorable. In this play she totally inhabits the complex character of the arrogant enigmatic Talkback host. Monica, who is much respected by her peers as an Equity judge, again proves that she can act as well as those to whom she awards the prizes. Great teamwork. What an amazing talent Mararo Wangai is. Unusual acting skills were demanded of Mararo, but he just grinned and amazed us all. The wonderful caller, Dawn, and a cameo part were played superbly by Verity Jansen.
After seeing this masterpiece, one can only boggle at Hannah’s future as a playwright and the numerous doors that will surely open. Publicist, David Mitchell was correct in saying ‘If you are going to see only one show at the Fringe, this has got to be it’ – yes, if you can get a ticket.