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Phone Killer | The Cockpit

Phone Killer, written by Lucie Lutte and directed by Isabel Steuble-Johnson, is a baffling yet chilling play. The play switches between a police station with two bickering officers PC Trout (Chris Mawaka) and PC Asher (Stephanie McNeil) and new recruit PC Flemming (Jake Maisel), and Joseph's domestic life, with his wife Mary (Alex Douglas), Mary's brother Peter (Oluwanfemi Opedo) and best friend Jamie (Kalvin Lobo). 

Unfortunately, neither storyline are initially developed, often waffling through trivial arguments that add little to the story (PC Asher and PC Trout dedicate a lot of their stage time talking about her decision to be vegan). Mary and Joseph, who were high school sweethearts, are often at each other's throats due to Joseph's decision to prioritise his girls over a career. However Mary is also appreciative and in awe of the bond he shares with their daughter. The first forty or so minutes are puzzling and lack in engagement. With an exception of Joseph (Harry Frampton), a lovable stay at home father who is devoted to his two young daughters, none of the characters have a developed personality and storylines feel incoherent. 

A hopeful subplot begins with an accidental interaction between PC Flemming and inmate "You-Know-Who" (Douglas Assantillo), providing a much needed air of mystery and intrigue to the play. However this plotline isn't focused on, instead played off for laughs for most of the play, for the inmate offers baked blueberry muffins. The last twenty minutes of the show is redeeming, for the most part, with a deep dive into a thrilling psychological horror agenda. Assantillo leads this portion and does a remarkable job as the manic and panicked individual. Fear clutches at the audience, and the big twist rightfully claims its gasps. Whilst still logically flawed, this twist leads to a powerful piece of movement with Assantillo and Frampton, and has the audience utterly invested. 

The plot leading into this segment is quite far fetched and unbelievable, with the involvement of additional characters Emily and Tina (Stephanie McNeil and Niara Rowe), yet the chilling tone pulls it through. Despite a let down in script, Lobo shines in this section with his own take on the unhinged and psychotic Jamie. Lobo and Assantillo play off each other well and have a rather impressively choreographed physical confrontation. 

The technical work in the play are incredible. Emeka Diamond and Annie Apakoh (sound and lighting designer) have worked together to create an electrifying and terrifying energy on stage. With quick flashes of bright lights, blackouts, harsh spotlights and dark red lighting, Apakoh's work becomes a storyteller in its own right. Diamond has carefully chosen a soundtrack that becomes increasingly menacing and brings forth an unsettling crackling that works well. 

The play ends on an uncomfortable and terrifying note, and has the audience shocked and frightened, remaining in their seats long after the house lights come on, with a stunned silence. Phone Killer has the potential to become what it wants to be, an intriguing and downright terrifying foray into the psychology of human tolerance. However, as it currently stands, isn't quite there yet.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Véronique Keller


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