Review by Dan Hutchings
Welcome to BABECity, where your call will always be answered.
This is where we find ourselves at the Fringe Festival Hub at the Trades Hall, at BABECITY Hotline, a comedy set inside the walls of a phone sex line. Here, we meet a charming ensemble of hotline employees as they navigate a day at the call centre: Stardust, Jade, Ruby, Fable and Crystal, as well as new girl Jane, who starts going by Tina and has to quickly find her confidence at the centre. They’re a diverse crew, and established clearly and cleverly early on, as head honcho Stardust directs callers to the appropriate Babe, depending on the niche they’re looking for. Whether you’re looking for the ‘girlfriend experience’ or something a little more risqué, BABECITY has you covered.
A comedy at a phone sex hotline is a quirky concept, and one that is fully committed to by the talented ensemble. Most importantly, it’s funny, with the cast exploiting this concept for all its worth and humour. The script, penned by director Georgia Kate Bell and Lauren Caltabiano (who plays Crystal), is good, and punchlines about the corporate environment work together well with physical comedy and improvisations from the cast for a very funny play. Bits of choreography are laced throughout, and while I did wonder if they were fully necessary for the story, I also enjoyed them immensely, mainly, again, due to the commitment of the actors. I only wish there had been less floor work, as it didn’t really work for the space, being out of view of those sitting further back.
The set is well put together, and the stagecraft provides a strong aesthetic. Pink and white lighting dominates the stage, immediately placing you in the frisky bubblegum world of BABECITY. These pinks are present in the costuming as well - all of the Babes wear pink, providing a good contrast to the beiges of new girl Tina’s. It’s an obvious symbol, but a nice one nonetheless - as Tina is accepted by her coworkers, and begins to thrive in the workplace, pinks start finding their way into her outfit.
The highlights of the show are the extended vignettes of the phone calls. Severals scenes show the BABEs on their own calls, chopping and changing between snippets of their conversations - often out of context and always very funny. However, you can have too much of a good thing, and these sometimes went a little longer than they needed to, especially for a play with a short run time. I would have loved to have seen more of the ‘plot’ scenes, and couldn’t help but wonder if it would have worked better set over several weeks rather than a single day. Tina’s blossoming might have felt more believable, and plot threads that sometimes felt a little thin could have been given more weight over a longer time period.
BABECITY Hotline might seem risqué, but at its core it’s a heartwarming workplace comedy about a woman finding acceptance and finding herself in an unlikely place. If you’re going to watch a comedy set at a phone sex hotline this Fringe - make this the one you see.