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April 19, 2010 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Dead Man’s Cellphone

Sarah Ruhl, who wrote last year’s Circa schtizo-tepid giggle-fest The Clean House, returns to the hallowed hollow of Circa One with Dead Man’s Cell Phone. It’s about Jean, a woman (rather tellingly those two signifiers are reversed in the programme) played aptly by Mel Dodge, who, while in a café, discovers the man seated next to her is dead. And then she ends up taking his cellphone. So, she slowly uncovers the dramas of the dead man, Gordon (a show-stealing Christopher Brougham), his family and his business.

Why? Why take a dead man’s cellphone? What happens when those close to him find out about her lies to ensconce herself in their lives? Sadly, these questions are hardly raised let alone addressed. The key questions of the concept of the show seem largely forgotten to make way for a very rom com plot of love and laughs.And there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing to retch at in just having a bit of hugging and giggling in the theatre. All arts should have their comfort foods. But to implicitly pose such questions and ignore them seems too slight for my taste.

The rest of the cast acquit themselves admirably, which is notable considering that they have characters that are often two-dimensional and little more than devices. Susan Wilson’s direction, along with John Hodgkins’ set, Ulli Briese’s lights, Thomas Press’ sound and Paul Jenden’s costume work well, although seeming to take the play as more solemn and dark than the confection it clearly is.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone, when taken as a nice bit of fun, as the gleeful high concept rom com that it is, is a good (if slightly confused, especially towards the end) night out. If taken as a more philosophical work, as this production sometimes seems to do, it nudges much more towards being a disappointment.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone
Written by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Susan Wilson
With Mel Dodge, Christopher Brougham, Donna Akersten, Rachel More, Gavin Rutherford and Jessica Robinson

At Circa theatre
10 April – 8 May 2010
book at


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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