Pros: A strong script and solid lead performances.
Cons: The pace could be better and having no air conditioning in the venue had a considerable impact.
As I type this I’m watching the incredible breaking news that the supreme court in the USA has declared gay marriage legal across all of its 50 states. What a momentous day for equality, LGBT rights and, most importantly, love. Romance couldn’t be more modern. It’s these themes that the play Modern Romance looks at and how our experiences of love today are far different from any other moment in history. The show pieces together the fragments of a 21st century love affair between Adam and Isaac, whose relationship is thrown into question when one of them agrees to donate semen to a colleague with disastrous effects.
Currently on at the amazing Southwark Playhouse, Modern Romance is an in-depth study of jealousy and how the landscape of love has changed. Gone are the days of catching someone’s eye across a bar and offering to buy them a drink as nowadays its either swiping left on Tinder or sending your location on Grindr. Technology has truly taken over our love lives.
The show had a tricky start with a tech gremlin and sadly, due the incredible heat wave London is currently relishing, the tiny studio where the play was performed was a sweatbox. The heat became quite overpowering and it was hard to focus on anything else at times, but the plot and lead actors kept me gripped nevertheless. Tom Powell plays the reserved, responsible and calm Adam with great gusto and he delivers a strong performance. I did want him to loose his rag a bit more, as he was quite monotone across the whole 60 minutes. Nathaniel Fairnington plays the wild, spontaneous and troubled Isaac, which he does with relish. Fairnington’s Isaac is emotionally damaged and as the green eyed monster gets bigger and more terrifying, the performance becomes incredibly raw. As a two-hander, (although there’s also the stunning Paris Richards singing in the sidelines) the two lads bounce off one another well and the dynamic between the two of them is great to watch.
Mariko Primarolo’s script is incredibly strong and contains some rich monologues. The dialogues, however, are heartbreakingly beautiful as well. Like the moment when Adam and Isaac start thinking about the impact on their relationship if Adam’s bitchy colleague were to conceive: ‘My name won’t be on the birth certificate. Legally he can’t belong to me.’ ‘But you would belong to him.’ Director Eve Carson does a wonderful job of telling the boys’ story with creative and subtle techniques. I did struggle with the pace of the show: the scenes are set out like a dramatic scrapbook, but they’re also fast and the changeovers are even faster. The time travelling and the large fluctuations in intensity constantly interrupt the flow, and this setup doesn’t allow the audience enough time to enjoy certain threads of the story as much as others. A few long pauses between the more emotionally charged scenes could’ve helped here and given us the time to savour the wonderful dialogue.
I love visiting the amazing Southwark Playhouse. The staff are always so friendly, the vibe in the bar and café area is electric and the theatre space is second to none. To be honest, there really isn’t a better place in South London to enjoy an ice cold beer outside before some cutting edge theatre. But please make sure to take a fan if you are in the studio!
Author: Mariko Primarolo
Director: Eve Carson
Producer: Michelle Horn
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.