Pros: Quirky characterisation of four daters, and fair scrutiny of the modern dating scene.
Cons: Audience numbers and logistics affect the speed dating process, which feels slightly disjointed from the plays. The Finnish connection isn’t obvious, either.
This show belongs to the Start to Finnish events programme, celebrating Finland’s culture in honour of 100 years of Finnish independence. However, it’s hard to see traces of Finland in the script of these two interconnected plays, except in references to one character’s love of the metal band System of a Down (an American group, but Finland is known for its love of heavy metal music). Essentially, the stories are Scottish, and the lack of Finnish culture feels like a missed opportunity to celebrate its national character. For example, last year’s Fringe included Clara-Nel Haddon’s intriguing play, Sisu – named after the Finnish word describing a native concept of grit and determination. By contrast, Dates… doesn’t feel Finnish enough.
Here, universal bugbears are explored: the attitudes of snobby restaurants (albeit with not-so-snobby menus – this one didn’t seem appropriate); looking different from your dating site profile picture; ‘negging’ (lowering the self-esteem of someone you’re attracted to, so as to make them feel grateful for the attention); having a love-hate relationship with sport.
The script proves that what you truly want from a date, and what you think you want, are two very different things, and you can’t take your potential partner at face value. A sizeist female rugby player (played by Nicola Daley) is a particularly strong character, endlessly judging her date’s curves and appetite (Sarah McCardie). Writer John Lundsten’s experience as a prolific screenwriter perhaps explains his eye for complex situations, but he sometimes resorts to cliché, which can be frustrating.
The final part of the evening is a live speed dating session with the audience. Each person wears a number and moves around the room to talk to everyone else. Due to the pot luck nature of Fringe audiences, your experience is reliant on whoever else decides to see the show. Without knowing anyone’s relationship status or sexuality, it’s hard to say how many of the potential dates at this show are available, and with only one minute to quiz them, it’s tricky to get beyond basic introductions or discover the kind of personality quirks highlighted in the earlier plays. But the usual speed dating protocol is in place, allowing you to mark a date card with the numbers of participants you like. I doubt this will create any relationships or friendships, but it’s nice to talk to fellow Fringe-goers in passing. Make a date with this show if you’re curious, and enjoy its warmth – just don’t expect sparks at the end.
Author: John Lundsten
Director: Julian Garner
Producer: Tanja Ljungqvist
Box Office: 0131 560 1581
Booking Link: https://festival17.summerhall.co.uk/event/dates-at-the-speed-of-sound
Booking Until: 27 August 2017