It’s Saturday night of Valentine’s weekend and I’m sitting down for Roulette, a fictional online dating game! In the middle of the Covid crisis, six contestants compete on Zoom to win two weeks away, joined by whichever partner the audience matches them with. Pandemic rules are off, so dinner out and no social distancing is on offer; everything we dream of at the moment!
Our hosts, Rex (Alan Paterson) and Dion (Keegan Siebken), are kind of Max Headroom meets Kenny Everett (if you can remember that far back in time!); a cheeky duo whose interactions are a little naughty, but fun. They introduce the contestants, and set the scene for the laughs coming up.
It’s clear from early on that the singletons are not actually the superficial stereotypes they may first appear. As we learn more about them from their speed dating, there is often a twist, reminding us to never judge someone on first impressions. Saira (Vanashree Thapliyal) seems a bimbo but is in fact a doctor specialising in infectious diseases. Oh, and she enjoys skydiving. Harriet (Lorna Craig) looks like a model but is actually a pro fighter. Tristen (Richard Lydecker) makes himself out to be a mysterious criminal, in reality he is just a painter and decorator. Vardo (Gregor Haddow) is a forest ranger who really sees into people. Then there is marine biologist Eartha (Caroline Mathison) who doesn’t even want to be on the show – her daughter’s set her up for it. Mix them all up in this date night format and it’s entertaining to watch as they play off each other, even if things don’t always feel that spontaneous.
Speculating how the matches will pan out is amusing as the contestants are all quite different and sometimes intriguing. They speak openly about their sexual identities, and it’s not a problem for any of them if they are potentially going to be coupled with someone with different preferences. This is a bit fantastical, but acceptable within the cheesy styling. Equally, being bound within the Zoom box doesn’t diminish the sense that each has a wider life, with family and friends. However, some of their conversations become quite serious, and although this provides rounder characterisation, it does mean the show’s momentum slows, with the frivolity of the evening stalling in places.
The production starts off pacey and upbeat, but as it goes on the repeated catchphrases and the pauses for technology become a bit wearing. The Zoom format, although allowing for the audience to use chat and vote in polls, does little more than that. There’s no ‘Gogglebox-style’ turning the camera into homes, so we’re not heavily invested in our relationship with the show; we just get to type a bit. The little bits of background music from Maestro (Neil Colquhoun) complement the cheesy TV show, and maybe a bit more incidental music would help fill some of the gaps. The main issue I had with the tech was sound balance: from the start I found that Dion was much quieter than Rex, so I had to have the volume quite high to get the whole conversation, of course meaning that the other half was just too loud.
However, this show really is a bit of fun; a happy hour and a bit to spend having a giggle, maybe with a glass of wine and a buddy, or maybe on your own: because actually, being single is just fine! All the actors have donated their time free of charge, so if you do watch please consider giving a donation to Acting for Others.
Written by: Claire Wood
Directed by: Ross Hope
Composers: Neil Colquhoun & Fraser Macdermid
Technical Direction by: Andy Ellis
Produced by: Production Lines
Production Lines’ Roulette is currently booking for shows between 18 and 20 February at 8pm. Booking details via the below link.