3 stars

TALK BACK is an on-stage thriller by debut playwright Hannah Cockroft. This eerie play is set in the graveyard shift at the local radio station where the host, Margie, pretends to communicate with the dead. The audience is presented with a figure clinging desperately to a career that has long ago faded into the distance.

The show begins in the studio with Margie and her producer sitting in silence, waiting to go on air. When Second Chance Farewells begins, the two scrabble through the familiar routine of crank callers, lights shorting out and the necessity of driving ratings to keep their job.

The relationship between Monica Main’s Margie and Mararo Wangai’s producer is the familiar mix of fallen star and up and coming professional. However, the Second Chance Farewell’s formula is disrupted when it seems Margie really can talk to the dead.

The staging creates an effective dynamic between Main and Wangai as they attempt to communicate across the space while on air. Lighting and audio work well to create the haunted atmosphere and the sense of an ‘other’ presence in the room as Margie is confronted with the truth of her past.

TALK BACK builds to its climax in steady increments but is let down at times by repetitive dialogue, and a narrative that, while well presented, is predictable. Main and Wangai’s performances are patchy as their characters are forced to face the reality of their situation.

The strength of TALK BACK lies with the effective use of space, audio and light to create the physical experience of a haunting in contrast to the flat, clear light of normality. This is a solid play for those who love thrillers.