Camden People’s Theatre
Reviewed – 12th April 2019
“a charming snapshot of a unique point in history wherein the concept of ‘connection’ was redefined”
A verbatim play based on the true story of a lone phone booth situated in the middle of the Mojave Desert in 1990s North America, Citizen Band Radio’s play Mojave follows Godfrey ‘Doc’ Daniels on his journey to discover this strange landmark. The play opens on the phone box in question covered in a white sheet, against which a stylised desert is projected. These projections, combined with the live DJ-ed music, do well at plunging us into the action from the very start of the piece and continue to do so throughout. The setting of the nineties is important and rightly emphasised through radio interviews, music excerpts and a particularly commendable audio-visual presentation to show the evolution of a website at a time when the internet started to come into its own.
A disadvantage that can arise with verbatim theatre is in the structuring of the play – life doesn’t tend to conform to a standard three-act format after all – and there are certainly moments where Mojave feels a little too still, plotwise. The story starts strong with a focus on Doc. A fantastically choreographed movement piece reveals the monotony of his daily life and the way in which his obsession with the phone booth leaks into it. As it continues, however, the choreography starts to feel more like padding put in to lengthen the running time. The second half of the play consists largely of a montage of different calls to and from the booth and, though at first interesting, sloppy transitions combined with a stagnant plot line steadily work to undo the immersion that the first half of the play has done so well to create.
In spite of this, the ensemble works well at multi-roling a whole host of different characters. They switch smoothly, even when shifting between accents (Scottish, French, German, American) at speed. The dialogue, lifted from transcripts of Doc’s recordings and phone calls made to and from the booth, lend an interesting and unusual form of realism to the play; not realism in the harsh or brutalistic sense, but something softer and more comfortable to observe. The cast reliably hit their comedic beats and the moments of awkward interaction between strangers on a phone line are especially well executed. It is with this relaxed and humourous tone that the play manages to offer a charming snapshot of a unique point in history wherein the concept of ‘connection’ was redefined.
Reviewed by Katy Owen
Photography courtesy Citizens Band Radio
Camden People’s Theatre
Previously reviewed at this venue: