Review: 2 Become 1
Image: King's Head Theatre
Jessica Brady - Amanda
Eliza Hewitt-Jones - Charlie
Natasha Granger - Jess
Kerrie Thomason - Molly
It’s the late ‘90s - Titanic, Brad and Jen, Mr Big, Bridget Jones and Things Can Only Get Better have captured every young woman’s heart, but Jess has just been dumped by her perfect man.
Bored of her moping and weeping into her Haagen-Dazs, Jess’s friends take her out on A Big Night Out with a twist - speed dating.
What better way to unbreak her heart than to meet a man a minute?
With an infectious soundtrack of female pop icons of the ‘90s, and a dance routine or two along the way, crack open your Bacardi Breezers and don your best platform trainers to follow Jess, Amanda, Molly and Charlie on a wild night of meeting Mr Wrongs and Mr Rights in this comedy pop-musical.
This '90s Pop Musical' is an endeavour which sports both an all-female cast (apart from some male voice-overs) and an entirely female creative team.
And that's both appropriate and commendable considering the skewed proportion of London shows which tend to favour male characters, as well as a preponderance of men in the behind-the-scenes department.
So, this production makes a serious and welcome effort to redress the gender balance.
More importantly, the plot focuses on the endeavours, desires and attitudes of a group of young women who are seeking their perfect mate - that makes it a show by women and about women.
While we file-in to take our seats, Jess lies on the stage next to a constantly-ringing telephone, which turns out to be particularly irritating.
Still, that is the point, I assume.
The calls are from Jess's friends who are concerned about her because she's been dumped by her latest boyfriend.
Incessantly crying - weeping might be more dramatically apt - Jess is devastated by the new romantic status which has been imposed on her.
Sadly, that's how these things go, as many of us are only too aware.
And at times like these we seek the company of friends to see us through the grim dark days and and even darker nights.
But if Jess merely wanted some gin and sympathy, she's not going to get much of it from her concerned chums.
No, it's like falling off a horse - you have to get straight back on!
Which means venturing out to a speed-dating session to find romance anew.
And the remainder of the show follows the intrepid love-seekers through their night of dubious match-making.
On one level, the show is simply an entertaining foray into the realms of partner-finding, with songs interspersed throughout and maintaining what one might describe as a fairly light-hearted tone.
But cleverly slotted-in to the seemingly undemanding storyline, we actually get something more important - we hear the wince-inducing opinions of the men that the women are talking to in the speed-dating sessions.
It doesn't make for very comfortable listening as these unseen male characters trot-out their objectionable and wholly unpalatable views about women and their roles in society in general and relationships in particular.
And that is probably the neatest trick in this well-worked show - these female characters make an important point without preaching or making it feel laboured, and they balance those cringe-making male attitudes by ensuring we know they have ample desires and opinions of their own.
A confident and energetic cast provide strong, well-defined and differentiated characterisations, and they work the audience with agreeable panache, without reducing them to embarrassed wrecks.
The timing is pretty-well spot-on throughout, but the consistency of the comedy is a touch on the patchy side, particularly in the early stages.
It picks-up as proceedings move forward, though, and there's one especially funny sequence where Jessica Brady's Amanda gets fixated on one male member of the audience.
Fun, lively and a little raunchy at times, this is a show with a definite feminist perspective that nonetheless proves enjoyably good-natured and entertaining.
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ActDrop listing for King's Head Theatre
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