For those of us fanatic about Agatha and perhaps a bit too competitive at Cluedo, Number, Please could very well become a new obsession. This witty farce has graced the Fringe for a second year following a breakout success and is now playing at Paradise in Augustines.
Fit with twists and turns, femme fatales and spies galore, Number, Please follows the wild escapades of a certain unsuspecting Sheila Chadwick—switchboard operator turned savior of the world. After answering a strange call from a desperate woman, Sheila is pulled into a plot to defend the world against the distribution of nuclear arms to every country on the globe.
From meddling Americans, to sly Russians, to witty Brits, Number, Please takes each crime-genre trope invented in the post-war, baby-boom era, and freshens it with a polished, yet self-aware wit that only a modern generation could provide, like a modern take on Monty Python. Not only is the script topically relevant, but it expresses these dualities between yesterday and today with complete, and hilarious subtlety.
Conversely, the show’s comedic effect is so masterfully executed due to its direct candour. Although there is comedic merit in all the show’s wild relationships and in its witty dialogue, the real laughs pour in through its lively and creative performativity. The entire cast stretch the classic traditions of farce comedy to their limits. Prop Comedy Check. Disguises? Check. Fourth Wall? Destroyed.
Not only has Number, Please mastered the interactive power of casting its small cast as multiple, wild characters, it also throws the challenge of embodying the set at its poor actors. Now, not only does the cross-dressing detective cause bouts of laughter, yet so does the bookshelf!
Throwing all this at a cast is impressive enough in theory, yet to execute it flawlessly is downright remarkable. Whether they’re playing an undercover Nuclear Justice Association member or a table, this cast commits to each and every act without inhibition, from absurd slap-stick physicality, to hilarious vocal versatility. In near-choreographed precision does the cast prove their show to be a marvel just short of perfect sketch comedy. The genius script manages to sustain the show with a tight plot and endearing—if a bit dishonest—characters.
Overall, Number Please is an exceptional example of how quick-paced comedy and farce will never die—in fact, the show revives them.