Tuesday and Wednesday marked the two night run of ‘Phone Whore’ at the Alma Tavern & Theatre, where I was hired as part of my freelance theatre technician contract with them. When I arrived on Tuesday I decided to arrive slightly earlier so I could take a good look at the theatre facilities.
Lighting – Aurora 12 lighting desk. 8 lamps on stage, 3 Strand Quarter 22/40 from back of venue. Very limited, purely the case of fading up and down the appropriate channels.
Sound – Behringer 24-bit multi-fx processor (12 channel input), comes with CD player and 3.5mm for music play out, no microphones or additional sound kit provided.
All of the kit appeared to be in working order. The venue is very technically basic suggesting most clients will bring additional gear or run with a narrative intensive play so that tech is forgotten.
When Cameryn arrived we started loading props onto the stage, also sourcing an additional table and chair. She gave me a copy of the script to read through and note the lighting and sound cues, very simplistic. Once the set was assembled I started to light for a “cosy room at night” feel, putting particular emphasis on the three elements featured. This was the case of direct spots on each element with some dimmer fill light to illuminate the entire stage, I also used one of the Strand Quarters focused on the chair where most of the action was happening to pull it out slightly. I discovered a stash of gels in the venue so I used full straw gels to warm up the stage, however this was too ‘sepia’ so I dialled down to half straw (R09) gels assorting colours between these gels and bare lamps.
Having noted down the lighting and sound cues Cameryn and I ran through each of these elements:
1 – Fade house music and start phone ring as Cameryn is speaking to audience. Fade house lights down and bring up stage lights. Cut phone when answered.
2 – “He’s putting it all out there”, phone rings.
3 – Cameryn outside door “…bend them over the dining room table, but they don’t. It’s too threatening”. Leave a beat, toilet sound.
4 – “someone’s dick in their ass is the best I can do”, phone rings.
5 – “I was out like a light”, toaster sound.
6 – “…big boy now! You must be really excited”, phone rings.
7 – “…guy rummaging cans in my recycling”, Cameryn goes to take a drink, phone rings.
8 – “Desires are some of the most personal thoughts we have”, phone rings, dim volume as it continues to rings. When she answers dim house lights.
After one last rehearsal of the cues prior to the show we went straight into the performance, the same deal with Wednesday night. Both performances went flawlessly without any technical hitches. The audience appeared to enjoy the show, it definitely sparked a lot of conversation as intended due to the subject matter. The Q & A following the performance was really interesting and I’ve definitely taken a lot away from the experience. Over the two nights we had one audience member leave during the hardest part of the show, this was something Cameryn had warned me.
The show itself is an insight into the life of a phone sex operator, Cameryn herself actually does this as a profession so its based on real life experience. The idea that everyone thinks phone sex is ‘vanilla’ is far from the truth as we explore four phone calls amongst monologues into the mind of the character and her struggle. The content of the calls get progressively worse until the point children and illegal activities are involved.
The bigger debate centralises around the difference between thought and action. How we cannot limit our thoughts and fantasies, whether they are right or wrong, but as a society we know not to act on these due to the nature of them. Using sex as the device to explore this issue is really interesting, it makes for an uncomfortable performance but waiting until the end and understanding the life of the character reaches a form of resolution. Whilst there is no happy ending it brings to life a social issue and questions whether fantasies are actually wrong and how we shouldn’t feel suppressed by what society deems as taboo.
Over the two days I had the chance to discuss this further with Cameryn and its a real eye opener. She has some fascinating stories and I feel this work is a great reflection of her thoughts and feelings. After the show we discussed further with audience members at the bar, it was great hearing their reactions and getting their feedback. I ended up giving out my number to someone whose son was interested at getting into live sound engineering. Admittedly I am only starting out professionally myself, but I feel I have a good source of knowledge that I can share out about the Bristol performance landscape.
I’ve notified Holly of my hours for freelance work, I’ve also expressed my interest in future projects. She will notify me of anything upcoming and I’ll be eager to jump in. I’ve also let her know of my experience in PAT testing, rigging, etc, so hopefully some additional work can come off the back of it.
It’s a shame the show only ran for two nights, I would have loved to continue it. Admittedly it wasn’t a strain on me technically, but I loved the conversation that accompanied the piece. I really feel at home in this environment and love taking apart these texts alongside my technical and creative crafts. If this is only the start of my professional journey I am eager to see what else is to follow.