Pros: Fantastic energy on stage throughout the entire performance, constantly engaging the audience and delivering punch lines with great effect.
Cons: The overall structure was a little messy, giving the idea of a single romantic story happening between the two characters, instead of a series of unlinked situations.
In Romantic Fools , we follow two characters – Nadya, brought to life by Nadya Shaw Bennett and James, played by James John Bryant – and their hilarious attempts at dating, relationships, one-night stands and marriage. Through a series of scenes from his and her perspective, using elements from theatre and stand-up comedy, they bring to life the absurdities and clichés surrounding love, and finding that special person.
The play opens with a dialogue from the frustrated characters directed at the audience. They take turns in explaining what it is they want from their significant other, and the problems the other sex present in their quest for true love. They create a comical atmosphere straight on, with Nadia raising a vehement point about the futility of men and James immediately elaborating on the same point from a masculine perspective. Very sarcastic cries of ‘Men!’ and ‘Women!’ keep resonating in the theatre.
From then on the performers play a succession of scenes showing different romantic situations, showing how each of them would interpret what happens. The scenes are fantastically overplayed to enhance the absurd, and elaborate on this initial idea that Nadya and James are both extremely frustrated with the opposite sex. To give an example: we see a blind date from Nadya’s point of view: she is already expecting the worst, but then a troglodyte appears at the door bearing flowers and a chunk of meat. We follow the course of her date with this caveman, as he tries to make a good impression with grunts and gestures. Things don’t get easier for James, his date decides to go from psychotically needy to cool and rational in the span of a second. Then there’s a woman married to the perfect man, whom in order to make his wife happy, must pretend to be an insensitive jerk, and many more.
The scenes transition with the lights on stage being switched off, but in the blink of an eye the next scene has already begun, making it hard to let the individuality of the situations sink in. Good laughs overall, but I wished I had a few seconds between stories to really appreciate what had just happened. Bennett and Bryant deliver their parts very charismatically, although the dialogues and structure of the scenes seemed to focus more on the female character, giving the actress a better chance to show her strong comic skills. But neither of them disappointed, and they kept the pace and energy in the theatre throughout the entire performance, successfully engaging the audience and delivering punch lines. The staging worked well with this fast rhythm; a single room decorated with the basics of a living room, providing an easy setting to transition from the flat to a restaurant or bar without changing anything. A screen at the back hid the performers whilst one presented the scene, and allowed for the crazy costume changes.
The Canal Café Theatre has a long history of putting on comedy shows, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that right in the middle of sophisticated Maida Vale lies a place where the most outrageous situations take place on stage. With a show like this, it works perfectly, creating complicity with the performers. It’s always so much fun to see the absurdities of romantic life brought to life and this is exactly what Romantic Fools sets out to do. The ridiculousness of the situations and eccentricities of the characters combine to give a fantastic evening of comical theatre.
Author: Rich Orloff
Director: Neha Jain
More Information: http://www.aksarts.com/