Lockdown theatre has offered a lot of inventive ways to deliver performances – Zoom, email, through the post, on WhatsApp, and in the case of You Don’t Know Me, But…, a one-to-one performance delivered over the phone!
Stoke-on-Trent’s Stute Theatre is behind this show, which is written and performed by Sophia Hatfield, and directed by Gwenda Hughes. Although a fictional piece, it draws on interviews and memories from a local care home, and the show was created as part of the B-Arts CARE R&D programme.
On signing up for your individual (free) slot, you supply a phone number and simply answer the call and, after a short exchange of hellos and housekeeping, listen to the live show for 20 minutes. It is an intimate way of delivering a piece directly to one audience member in a “virtual auditorium”.
We’re in the world of the chatty care worker Vick, and in four or five scenes we hear snatches from her day, punctuated by music and the familiar refrain of “you don’t know me …” We hear her at home, with the elderly patients she visits, and go back with her to moments triggered by the small things in life. A trail of crumbs on a table, a piece of furniture awaiting council collection.
I found it odd at first to settle in to an immersive experience as a non-participating audience, unsure whether to laugh or even make a noise on the other end of the line. Phone conversations, after all, are by definition at least two-way.
However, Hatfield’s characterisation feels like a friend you might know who spills out all her news, and what she has to say is thoughtfully written and delivered. Any awkwardness is quickly forgotten.
Word association, memories, loss, death, grief and dementia are all explored, and if you have been affected by any of these issues in real-life, you will find something to relate to here.
The Telephone is performed six times from 3pm per day and is free, although booking is essential.