Company Paradiso, I Only Came to Use the Phone

Review in Issue 10-4 | Winter 1998

There is an apocryphal story of a journalist who has himself committed to a mental hospital in order to write an expose. Whilst there he makes copious notes. When the time comes to leave, however, the hapless journalist is unable to convince the doctors of his sanity. Chief amongst the symptoms noted by the psychiatrists is one that reads: ‘patient displays a writing compulsion’.

I am reminded of this cautionary tale by Company Paradiso’s modest but engaging show, Only Came to Use the Phone. In this piece, Maria – magician’s wife and assistant – is taken to a mental hospital after her car breaks down. Her desperation to telephone her jealous husband, El Eslapendo, are read by hospital staff as irrefutable evidence of her madness. Meanwhile, her husband takes her sudden disappearance as evidence of her infidelity, and he convinces himself that his wife has left him for a side-walk musician she met in a cafe. During his wife’s absence, both El Eslapendo’s magic show and his life become increasingly ragged. As the show reaches its conclusion, the hospital staff recount the events to El Eslapendo as they believe they happened and, just at the moment when the muddy situation should become clear, another misunderstanding, just as erroneous and tragic, is born.

In I Only Came to Use the Phone, reality, facts and history – even our own – are shown to be as illusory and sleight as any of El Eslapendo’s magic tricks. This potentially clunky metaphor is made tolerable by the show’s lightness of touch. The audience alone is able to understand all the versions of events, yet this only serves to underline the show’s bleak central message: that we are all prisoners of our own point of view.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-4
p. 22