Call Girls - Brisbane Fringe

‘Call Girls’ // Brisbane Fringe

‘Call Girls’ was buzzing.

Office jobs can be a bit dull. The constantly ringing handset, paperwork, whirring printers and fluorescent lights can be beige and robotic for most people looking for their way out. The real treasures of office jobs are the friends made along the way.

‘Call Girls’ explores this dynamic through the friendship of Ella and Alexis, as they navigate the trials and tribulations of working at a call centre. Big Fork Theatre was ringing with praise for this debut comedy show from dynamic duo Lauren Harvey and Kelly Hodge, which was presented as part of Fringe Brisbane.

The show follows Alexis and Ella across a few very eventful days in the office, in which we uncover deep-seated problems they are each avoiding in their lives. This conflict plays second fiddle to the main plot of their actual jobs at the call centre, their interactions with customers often smartly mimic their inner monologues. They deal with condescending customers, idiotic enquiries and bosses engrossed in hustle culture – all whilst trying to amend problems in their personal lives and repair cracks in their friendship.

If you’ve ever worked in a call centre or answered phones for a living, you’ll feel right at home here. As someone who currently works as a “call girl”, the “good girls” and “can I speak to your supervisors?” were all too real. It was refreshing to laugh along with performers who portrayed exactly how belittling it can feel working in customer service.

As a vegan, Ella had a delicious lack of self-awareness of the hypocrisy in her status as a “plant-based” eater. It was hilarious and proved how her left-brain personality seeped into every part of her life, giving fuel to the fire that became the conflict of the story. As a BFA student, Alexis’s jab at the “Bachelor of F-all’ was sadly all too relatable, and there were clearly some other mildly struggling artists with a formal arts education under their belts in the audience.

This show is written with such a strong, unapologetic lens of being a young person trying to get by in this economy that wherever you might come from, you’ll have something to relate to, and something that might make you feel a bit less alone in your crappy day-job experiences. The piece is conversational and grounded in harsh reality.

The lighting design was simple and complimented the monotony of their office environment, but transitioned into a blood red during hyper-real comedic sequences, giving the right amount of height to these breakaways to separate them thematically from the rest of the show.

Lauren Harvey was biting and incredibly charismatic as Alexis, the embodiment of a Monday morning hangover cured by a raspberry sugar-free Slurpee. She is a courageous and honest performer, unafraid to play her with depths and flaws that made her so tangible.

Kelly Hodge was masterfully tight-wound as Ella, giving life to the type-A workaholic that we all know and love to hate. She was at once humorous and vulnerable, managing the perfect balance between the two and allowing the audience to laugh at Ella’s imperfections whilst giving them the space to drive the character’s narrative. The pair had compelling chemistry and worked marvellously together, their real-life connection blooming onstage.

The story concluded with an apology and reignition of the friendship, but never entirely wrapped up. It was imperfect, like a real-life friendship and allowed the audience to imagine the ending. The metaphor of the peace lily, a white flag given to Alexis by Ella, was especially poignant, as it was doomed to merely survive (not thrive) if it stayed in the office – just like the girls.

The show would benefit from the addition of a director with a sharp eye for comedy and timing. The script could also be further developed to flesh out the story and depth of the friendship. This would make the breakup, and eventual “coming home” moment that concludes the play, much more satisfying.

Hopefully, ‘Call Girls’ will make a return after their successful season, as with further development, this show has the potential to soar across global fringe festivals.

‘Call Girls’ performs until Sunday, 30 October at Big Fork Theatre. For more information, visit their website.

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