Anyone who’s spent time answering phones in office administration will know the mind-numbingly repetitive nature of the job. So when 90% of the dialogue for the first-third of a one-woman show is the same line over and over, but elicits laughs every time, you know you’re in good hands. After a sell-out two-night season at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, writer and performer Emma Newborn returns to the Basement Studio with a delightful comedy that shows just how impressive the most unsuspecting can be.
A loyal employee, we begin to see exactly why that is as Coral awaits the return of her boss, Brian, who has a big presentation to deliver. It’s a simple premise, and works perfectly in allowing Newborn to show us who Coral is through what she does. Structurally, however, the show does work against itself, though the components are all there. The big presentation is the moment we’re all waiting for, so once we get past that point, the momentum wanes. The last third of the show provides plenty of dramatic content, but needs to be seeded earlier to heighten the tragic-comedy of the piece and allow the epilogue to wrap things up more quickly and concisely.
Fortunately, Newborn is an incredibly charismatic performer and drives the show with great ease. But not only is Coral a quaint show, it’s also an excellent metaphor. The coral reef narration (voiced by Edward Newborn) is a reminder that sometimes, in order to help, we need to step back and allow things to flourish on their own. At a time when climate change threatens our very future, Coral is a 50-minute reprieve that is sure to make you laugh, smile, and maybe think a little bit differently at the person on the other end of the line.