Morgan Jones Phillips’ one-man show The Emergency Monologues is a series of anecdotes based on his real-life experiences as a downtown paramedic, now playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille main space as part of the Toronto Fringe.
Using The Wheel of Misfortune, the monologues are chosen at random and Phillips gives the audience an hour-long peek into the job. Some of the stories are hilariously gross; some highlight the profound stupidity human beings are capable of, while others are of a more dire nature. We learned that “Code 5” means that the situation is pretty much hopeless – the patient is totally dead (as opposed to partially dead) and there’s nothing you can do for them. In the middle of the show, he takes a music break, picking up an acoustic guitar and serenading us with an original medical issue-related song.
During yesterday’s performance, we got two poo-related stories, an emergency birth (which also included a miraculous conversation with the patient in French, as it was the only language they had in common – and a bonus birthing story), a check-in on an elderly lady feared dead, a drunken balcony leap and a comedy of errors with an incoherent, whispering man. The music break featured “Every Bone in My Body,” about an overly optimistic daredevil, his sin visited on his son.
Phillips is an excellent storyteller – engaging, funny and frank – down to earth and circumspect about what he does as a paramedic. On the back of the program are 11 rules for paramedics, the first two being:
- People die.
- You can’t always change rule #1.
Other job-related wisdom includes rule #11: In an apartment building, the patient is always in the last door at the end of the hallway, usually on the left.
Kinda makes you want to reconsider your living arrangements if you’re thusly situated.
A remarkable piece of randomly selected stories about life as a downtown Toronto paramedic, The Emergency Monologues is not for the squeamish.
The Emergency Monologues has one more show during the Toronto Fringe fest: today (July 12) at 7:30 p.m. If you can’t make that one, no worries – the show got into The Best of the Toronto Fringe Festival (July 16-30 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts), so check out those listings. Copies of the script are available for sale at performances – or online.