4 stars – Excellent, highly enjoyable
Sorry, Wrong Number by Lucille Fletcher, is set in 1940’s New York, centring around Mrs Stevenson, a middle aged woman confined to bed due to ‘nerves’. As it draws close to midnight she tries frantically to call her husband, but is accidentally put through to another, much more sinister call… A night of intrigue and suspense, director Alice Hildreth starts Nottingham New Theatre’s fringe season off with a bang.
The play was staged in one of the studios of the Nottingham New Theatre, a smaller room around the back of the building. Upon entering we were immediately plunged into the scene of the play: a sparse but homely bedroom set. The play lends itself to the confined space of the studio perfectly; the claustrophobia of the space placing us in direct contact with Mrs Stevenson who was already reading in bed and looking slightly distressed as the audience took their seats.
Becca Clee (Mrs Stevenson) had a momentous task, being the only actor on stage throughout the entire play. She handled this impressively, with a believable New York drawl which never dropped. She embodied Mrs Stevenson perfectly, becoming more and more frantic with each phone call. The tension was well balanced with short outbursts of laughter which became a welcome relief to the mounting suspense of the play.
In the original script, the operator (Lucy Kerr) and police officer (Ollie Shortt) answering the calls are lit by a spotlight on stage. In this production however the people answering the calls are unseen, and their responses are disembodied voices echoing around the audience. This lent a real sense of distress to the production, and echoed Mrs Stevenson’s sense of detachment from the outside world. Her helplessness was truly evident as the voices of the telephone operators and police became gradually more dismissive of her anxieties.
The technical team were truly excellent… it was vital that the effects were slick.
The New York accent is notoriously difficult to master, and admittedly the first 10 minutes of communication seemed rushed as phone calls were very quickly answered and then cut off again. A key part of the play is Mrs Stevenson’s wrong phone call, and at first I struggled to catch every word. However, as the characters settled into their roles, the accents became slower, more drawn out and impressively realistic.
The technical team were also truly excellent. Since the telephone calls are central to the premise of the play it was vital that the sound effects were slick. This was impeccably well-timed as the phone calls were cut off with immediacy; there was not one slip (even when the phone was almost dropped!).
Sorry, Wrong Number is a fraught and intense thriller, a well-earned half-hour distraction from mid-semester essays
The only criticism I have is that the plot itself was slightly predictable. The series of not-so-subtle hints about the murder and the constant ‘clock-watching’ as the time got nearer to the anticipated 11.15pm were made slightly too obvious. This, however, didn’t ruin the suspense as the ending reached its shocking climax.
Overall, the play was handled with impressive professionalism. Sorry, Wrong Number is a fraught and intense thriller, a well-earned half-hour distraction from mid-semester essays. Worth a watch.
This performance runs 5th – 6th November. To reserve tickets, visit the website here.