Hang Up

BrokenCrow presents 'Hang Up' by Adam Wyeth. Photo: Enrique Carnicero

BrokenCrow presents 'Hang Up' by Adam Wyeth. Photo: Enrique Carnicero

BrokenCrow presents 'Hang Up' by Adam Wyeth. Photo: Enrique Carnicero

BrokenCrow presents 'Hang Up' by Adam Wyeth. Photo: Enrique Carnicero

A man stands alone in an empty room. He climbs on a chair, fixes a noose to the ceiling, tugs it to make sure it will hold. As he hesitates, struggling to muster the courage, his mobile phone rings. He lets it ring out, but the caller is insistent, and the phone rings again and again until William (played by Tadgh Hickey) is forced to give in and answer it. So begins poet Adam Wyeth’s first play, about communication, technology and the masks we wear or don’t wear as we make connections with each other, twenty-first century style. The opening sequence of Hang Up does beg the obvious question: why does William not just turn off the phone? However, once an audience overcomes this somewhat unfortunate lapse in plot structure, the work has some golden moments that play on the ways we talk by phone or by text as we never could if we looked each other in the eye.

William’s desperation to get off the phone is ignored by the first caller, who persists in not getting the hint as the protagonist politely and helplessly tries to back out of the conversation. It’s wonderful and simple and resonant of how we all operate on the phone: when we can’t be seen we laugh insincerely, we throw our eyes to heaven, we pace the room in frustration. Meanwhile, the caller, on the other end of the line, has no idea what is really going on.

Photo: Enrique CarniceroStuck alone with his thoughts, with a disembodied voice all he has for company, William becomes increasingly unhinged. After he finally manages to get off the first call, he has to cope with an automated service, which makes him jump through hoops in order to get to a human being (anyone ever tried calling Eircom?), who ultimately promises him a service that is not delivered. The play spirals into surreal territory as the phone becomes William and William becomes the phone. After all, do any of us these days really get a chance to hang up?

BrokenCrow theatre company, which produced the play in association with the HOME festival in Cork – a micro festival that involved various artists to engage with the notion of 'home' – keeps the production simple and tight. The staging, in an old storage upstairs room of the Oval bar in Cork city, is almost incestuous: we are right there in William’s breathing space, there is no way out for either actor or audience. Under Gavin McEntee’s direction, Hickey steps up admirably in this hothouse atmosphere, losing it while not losing it as he talks by phone, his voice just hanging on to the edge of reason, particularly as he is exhorted by the robotic, non-human service, to "please repeat" again and again and again.

Wyeth, with the help of BrokenCrow, also plays with the possibilities and limitations of text speak in the production: how we have learned to say less with less but that this somehow does not lessen the intensity of emotion. After leaving the play, audience members receive a fairly vicious text message, inarticulate in its use of language, but fully clear in its raw, visceral hatred. In this case, do fewer words add up to more, or is the suggestion that the words we use normally to indicate how we feel instead obscure and shade? Or would we all be better off just going back to paper and pen? Thoughtful and compelling, this short piece of work is not one that allows you off the hook.

Rachel Andrews is an arts journalist and critic based in Cork.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Hang Up by Adam Wyeth

28-30 April 2013

Produced by BrokenCrow Theatre Company
In The Oval Bar, Cork

Directed by Gavin McEntee

Performed by Tadgh Hickey

Presented as part of HOME Festival Cork, 28-30 April 2013.