Theatre Review: Landline

Truth be told, I’ve never really been one for meditation or deep introspection. I am, in many ways, quite guarded emotionally-speaking. I can be frustratingly socially-awkward and self-conscious, and so self-reflective, open-ended, and abstract lines of thinking are often quite difficult for me to embrace.

Halifax’s XOSECRET seems to thrive on secrecy. I had little idea of what to expect, and what preconceptions I initially had proved quickly to be incorrect. The location is a secret, and only two people can attend, (for lack of a better word), a “performance,” at a time. You get hooked up with an iPod Shuffle, headphones, and a phone number on your cell belonging to a stranger in Victoria, British Columbia, who is simultaneously doing the exact same thing as you. So start walking and prepare for further instructions.

With a dreamy Siri-esque voice in your ear, you drift around Halifax, and if the weather gods are in your favour, it’s overall a surprisingly pleasant experience. There are many moments in your trip where you’re encouraged to message your Victorian other half – how much, however, is your choice. Landline is a wholly reciprocal experience: what you put into it, you take out. The biggest challenge this outing provides is yourself. I initially felt very awkward, but over the course of an hour I was impressed by how I connected to both the world and a stranger on the other side of Canada. For all its highs, there were elements of Landline that didn’t work for me. I never felt like an actor in a play, nor did the streets I wandered feel like a setting. I did enjoy the ambience provided by my guide in the headphones, but the tangential monologues she provided only took me out of the moment when I worked so hard to stay in it.

There’s a moment in all of this when the speaker reminds you to “feel the freedom that anonymity brings” and that, for me, is XOSECRET’s greatest draw. Depending on your personality type and comfort level when it comes to shirking away social convention, Landline brings a certain amount of freedom to its “performance.” It’s reflective-cardio. It’s the closest you’ll get to feeling unplugged while still being knee-deep in technology.


Landline is presented by XOSECRET and Halifax Fringe, in partnership with Intrepid Theatre.

About the author

Carey Bray

Carey Bray is a local artist, actor/director, and writer residing in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He's also a theatre critic for The Coast, and has previously written reviews and interviews for The Coast's Halifax Fringe Festival, Atlantic Books Today, and the online blog, Hello Dartmouth. You'll find more of Carey's work on his blog, Sitting Ovation.