Phil Roach isn't the first man to be dumped by his girlfriend and realise his life isn't quite working out as expected but, as Julian Wickham's "Lifeline" quickly shows, he's possibly the first–in what even he later admits to be an act of madness–to print up and distribute thousands of flyers around Edinburgh with his phone number and the simple message: “Are you Lonely? Call Phil, day or night, Here to talk.”
Writer-director Julian Wickham opts for a simple enough setting; Phil, played with earnest puppy-dog lovability by Euan McIntyre
Pretty soon he begins to receive phone calls, though the first–from Mistress Andrea, who's keen to invite him round to her dungeon–shows that even this somewhat unconventional attempt to communicate with other people can be all-too-easily misunderstood. Once his flyer 'goes viral' online, the number of calls increases exponentially, ranging from simple childish abuse to the seemingly desperate plee from an ex-banker who is contemplating suicide.
The play shows us some of the most important people who get in touch with Phil during the course of the next 12 months, with at least a few returning to update him on their progress. For the most part, it's good news, with many of the callers simply grateful for Phil being someone they could talk to when they most needed to. That said, I couldn't help wonder if, at any time, Phil had been called up by the likes of the Samaritans demanding to know what counselling qualifications he possessed!
Writer-director Julian Wickham opts for a simple enough setting; Phil, played with earnest puppy-dog lovability by Euan McIntyre, sits on his sofa to the left while his callers appear and disappear on the right; two people in conversation and yet distinctly separated all the same. On occasions this staging risks staleness from repetition; weirdly, the disconnect is most successfully portrayed when Phil and rich widow Rebecca (played with an enticing calmness by Chenai Mautsi), are physically sat on the same sofa and yet still in two different worlds.
The message of the piece is perhaps too forcefully underscored when Phil is picked up by a television chat show to tell his story, but with the cast doing well to outline their characters in the limited time available to them, this is an entertaining and thought-provoking examination of the modern human condition. Not least where the people that mean most to us may be on the end of a telephone line.