Graham Clark Reads from the Phonebook is currently playing at the Factory Theatre as part of Next Stage Festival 2015. With a title like that, you’re probably expecting it to be either terrible or very clever. It’s not nearly as clever as I expected, but it’s certainly not terrible. I had a good time and the thirty minutes flew by.
Let’s be clear, he doesn’t just stand there and read the phonebook. He shuffles through it and points out some things he finds amusing, but the bulk of the show is him just telling us how this show came to be, what the phonebook means to him, and how he thinks his little show is going (as he performs it). Looking back over that description, I fear you’ll think this is a dud. It’s not, I promise you.
You can tell he’s mapped out some points he’d like to hit and that there is a definite structure to this show, but the overall effect is very casual. It really does feel as if he’s just hanging out with the small group of us there in the Factory’s antechamber (which seats only about thirty people).
As you might have guessed, the phonebook takes quite a ribbing. It is, afterall, a fading relic from a time before smartphones and wi-fi. It’s been, gosh, well over a decade since this bulky monstrosity has been useful as anything other than a doorstopper. This show feels like a celebrity roast with this ragged and stained paper behemoth in the hot seat.
Clark is very much amused by the phonebook, and by the whole concept of this show he’s created. He laughs at how the show came to be. He laughs at how ridiculous they are: the phonebook and the show. And I couldn’t help but laugh with him.
Unless your heart is made of stone or you were born later than 1990, you’ll probably feel some nostalgia for those days when you actually ran your fingers through the pages of a phonebook. By the end of the show, I wished I had one to flip through for old time’s sake.
Go on, see it! At thirty minutes, it’s not a big commitment. And Clark’s goofy and endearing presence makes it feel like only ten minutes.
- All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for Mainstage and Studio shows are $15 and $10 for Ante-chamber performances
- Showtimes and ticket information are available at fringetoronto.com/next-stage-festival/
Photo of Graham Clark by Tanja Tiziana