Pros: The writing creates innocent, kind and relatable characters without reducing them to childlike clichés.
Cons: There are some sections where the script waivers from its usual stronger form, making some scenes feel a little stagnant.
A barman and a condom packer walk into a bar. It sounds like the lead in to a joke, and it’s certainly the source of many, but it’s also the meeting of our protagonists, Andrew and Angela. These two unlucky-in-love characters are meeting up after their friends convinced them to dip their toes into the online dating pool. A few rather imaginative profile embellishments later and the resemblance between their online selves and actual selves is weak, but it turns out their real-world chemistry is strong – hurray! Of course that wouldn’t be much of a story, and, instead, Blind Date follows that Shakespearean adage ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’ to the letter, with infuriating, comedic and heart-warming consequences.
Blind Date began life as a fifteen-minute short entered into the bi-annual JB Shorts initiative in Manchester in 2013 and has been developed into its current ninety-minute form in response to the positive reception it received. Although there is more than enough storyline to fill these ninety minutes, one sometimes suspects that a shorter, snappier script has been diluted and drawn out somewhat. Also the repeated use of certain techniques, such as the two lead characters rapidly delivering individual and alternating lines to merge into one cohesive narrative, becomes a little tiresome as the play progresses. Having said this, author Dave Simpson has somehow managed to conserve the believable naivety and chastity of his lead characters, while maintaining the topics they discuss and references they make to a Disneytastic whitewash. Actually, it’s quite remarkable and well done.
Of course, Simpson is helped in this regard by the actors, Will Travis as Andrew and Susan McArdle as Angela. They manage to tease out the humour, need and insecurities in their characters well. So invested was I in these two awkward, caring and loveably inept City supporters that by the end of the play they had me wanting to stand on my chair and scream at them to pull themselves together. Travis and Mcardle were in turn well supported by Verity-May Henry and Drew Cain, who filled a multitude of roles from bankers to Italian waiters, clearly having a ball with the opportunity to adopt a huge variety of accents. I felt it was a bit of a shame that we didn’t see more of them, as the odd lines they had here and there left them very little to work with. Although, their choreographed table setting scene was a joy to watch and rightly milked for all it was worth.
It has taken a couple of years of work to get this show to where it is now, and I would say it could benefit from further tinkering to eliminate some of the more superfluous exchanges that have a tendency to drag and eat up the energy in the room. However, as it stands, Blind Date is an optimistic look at love and relationships that will remind you that whilst things rarely ever go as planned, they do have a tendency to work out in the end, one way or another.
Author: Dave Simpson
Director: Alice Bartlett
Producer: Diane Whitley
Booking Until: 31 January 2015
Box Office: 020 7287 2875
Booking Link: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/jermynstreettheatre/list.aspx?tagref=60