Home » Reviews » Off West End » Carbon Dating, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Carbon Dating, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Ron Elisha
Directed by John Fricker
★★★

Pros: A well-polished production featuring quick-wit and down-to-earth sketches from the frontlines of first dates.

Cons: Low stakes and a weak point of view create a sketch comedy feel, so the show lacks real weight.

Our Verdict: A less-than-ground breaking but appreciatively light-hearted rom-com that will absolutely entertain but won’t linger on conscience.

Credit: Mark Bowsher

If you loved the 2009 film, He’s Just Not That Into You or other similar romantic-comedies, OutFox Productions and the Brockley Jack are currently running the production for you. Carbon Dating is an abbreviated adventure through a series of first-dates gone wrong that ranges from awkward to adorable. Featuring stories that rest comfortably between sugar coated romance and cynicism, Carbon Dating keeps its journey through the dating world fresh and funny.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t understand what it means to be looking for love, so it’s an easy topic to explore on stage. Ron Elisha’s script, directed by John Fricker and featuring an ensemble of energetic and talented young actors offers brief glimpses of the single-and-hating-it crowd as they move from date to date looking for, as Helena Doughty’s brilliant but unbearably high-maintenance character, Sienna, puts it, “the right molecule to fit into the right receptor”.

The show thrives for its witty dialogue and entertaining characters – we don’t always like the men and women we see tirelessly searching for The One, but the talented cast keeps us interested in each character’s actions and traits. Even when we’re cringing from the awkwardness, the inconsideration and the buffoonery exemplified on each date, we don’t want to look away from these vibrant characters. The quick back-and-forth nature of the scenes kept things moving and interesting – lingering too long in the sketches tended to reveal a lack of genuine substance. While it was clear the cast’s desire to find a partner or desire to get over a former lover was the central crux, the strong desire to see them succeed was lacking, and rather the desire to watch was created in the actor’s abilities to create humor in their roles.

Interactions were the prize element of the production, as it seemed that many of the story arcs repeated themselves. This was particularly frustrating as a majority of the scenes – almost all – seemed to suggest that while the women were slightly irrational, the men were the real issue. Without any real exception, every man in the play was eventually revealed to be self-absorbed or undesirable, in many cases both. The women often asked the generalizing questions, “Why are men always like this?” or, “What’s their problem?”. It was disappointing that the play didn’t feature a wider variety of perspectives and roadblocks in the dating scene, but luckily for the production, the performances and dialogue were generally strong enough to overcome the weak point of view.

Lack of genuine stakes and depth aside, the production quality was quite good; performances, again, were enjoyable, highly-energized and clearly well-rehearsed. The set offered flexibility and ease: three restaurant tables allowed for changes of location without too much fuss between scenes, and minor intermediary prop changes undertaken by Will Parrot, who plays a disillusioned waiter, were entrainment in themselves. There was a fair amount of good work going on in the production, plus the Brockley Jack is a really excellent and cozy venue, so it’s definitely worth catching if you’re in the area or a theatre-lover in the mood for a good-fashioned blockbuster style chick-flick live-stage style.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Carbon Dating runs at the Brockley Jack Theatre until until 1st December 2012 (Tues-Sat only).
Box Office: 0844 847 2454 or book online at

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