After ending up in a heap watching Her at the end of last week, the idea of sitting through another dysfunctional love story wasn’t really filling me with joy. But it’s funny how you can manage find the joy in painful, awkward, unconventional relationships involving deep thinking loners living in London. (Or LA, or anywhere for that matter). Variations on this theme seem to be the order of the day right now so who am I to try and sugar coat it by going to see soppy overly romantic Valentine rom coms. No. I will face matters head on and deal with the more painful, interesting aspects of relationships.
I hadn’t been to the Live Theatre in ages and it was lovely. I especially like the cabaret seating around the stage, which I had inadvertently booked and fortunately ended up sitting with a couple of genned up theatre lovers. Having a bottle of red while you were watching was also an added bonus.
The action starts off with the back stories of the protagonists – Sophie is a typical girl working in a typical social media type office in London, an introvert in an extrovert world, lives in her own head and full of quirks. She feels invisible, on some occasions actually witnessing her hands disappear or fading away. Jonah is Yorkshire born and bred, lacked affection in his childhood and with his own quirks. Both lose parents to pancreatic cancer. Both have some sort of undiagnosed social anxiety.
Fate makes him her lodger and she decides to sent him a baby monitor screen (which she used previously to monitor her ill father)because she thought it would “feel good”, then the voyeurism starts. They start to have a relationship without actually having contact or being in the same place. It’s kind of sweet. They develop their own routines and discover they have a lot in common. He follows her around, as you do. She doesn’t mind it.
The set design is clever and poignant, it starts with both seated behind desks in an office environment, which are then transformed in a variety of beds in different settings. Important props are placed at the side of the stage in rows, with a touch of OCD. Microphones are used to amplify speech, another indirect communication device separating the characters.
I found it interesting that Sophie justifies her actions on the basis that they thought it would make her feel good (like trying to conduct a relationship via a baby monitor). How many of us have started something thinking that? How many of us would rather feel anything (positive or negative) instead of feeling numb? All intellectual consideration of our actions sometimes goes right out of the window.
Again, just like Her, there is an element of tragi-comedy. The excruciating detail both characters go into to describe past events is hilarious at times (Jonah’s tales about his parents are darkly amusing). It heartbreakingly shows how we can eventually open up and let someone in, despite all of our insecurities and oddities, be there for someone, and it’s still not enough. Sometimes there are simply too many variables, too many obstacles in the way.
I’m now off to find some screwball comedies, even though it pays to be real sometimes.