Great dystopian writers have made strenuous efforts to warn us that it would not be necessary to blame aliens or intelligent robots for causing the demise of humanity, because we would have already found a way to do it all by ourselves.
Some visionary minds – George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, or Ray Bradbury – exposed their nightmares through literature and succeeded in creating suffocating, gloomy, and repressive worlds. These futuristic societies share a key element, that people are labelled. Labelled according to their functions, capacities, and jobs. Manipulation, repression, determinism and predestination are the basis of such bleak environments. The lethal weapon turns out to be the urgent necessity humans have to seek and hold power for the sole purpose of controlling their peers.
Writer and director Sofia Wilhelmi takes on these themes of labelling and control, and portrays her thoughts on the widening social gaps in the 21st century in her play: Baby Call. The piece tells the story of a well-off 50-year-old woman called Teresa who controls her Peruvian 30-year-old maid Mary through a baby-call device. Teresa talks, Mary listens; Teresa demands, Mary gives; Teresa complains, Mary grants. However, their solitude is interrupted when one sleepless night two robbers, Marco and Yoni, enter Teresa’s house and make off with her belongings. Fortunately, the baby call is in place to monitor the thieves’ movements and conversations.
These four different characters of Baby Call are labelled, stigmatised according to their position in the social ladder. Even though they are aware of their incapacity to communicate with one another, owing to the fact that they belong to two antagonistic milieus, they fight a silent war to see who can exert control. Both women remain locked in a room while the burglars search around the house looking for valuable objects. Tension grows towards an inevitable climax: Teresa and the leader of the band finally confront each other, both representatives of two different and opposing statuses. They quarrel, they swear, they shout. The house is a battlefield and their distinctive clothes their armour. The final assault comes when Yoni savagely screams that the reason why there are still outcasts in the world is that there are still wealthy people.
It’s no wonder Baby Call won the Bienal de Arte Joven in 2014. Nothing has been left to chance. The play is a clear example of how a mise en scène can never become a successful product if the composing elements are not harmoniously intertwined by an invisible thread. The scenography is naturalistic, experimental, and invites the spectator to delve right into Teresa´s house. The sound is controlled by computers which are deliberately placed on stage and blend well with the surrounding household objects. But the director’s major accomplishment is the way she deals with comedy. The timing, the text, the irony, and the superb acting techniques make an unbeatable combination that cause the audience to frequently shriek with laughter.
The play is a comedy because no other theatrical genre would have been able to contain such a deep and complex proposal. Laughter is needed when the truth unveiled becomes too much to bear, when visions of dystopias come to our minds, when reality is perfectly sketched on stage. It is both the well-heeled and the castaways who can prevent a human catastrophe from happening, Teresa has to share her wealth and Yoni does not have to break into her house. Is it too late to rehearse one more time? We all hope it is not.