Strategic Love Play ★★★ Soho Theatre | September 6 - 23, 2023

First dates are a minefield and this one is certainly explosive! Woman, played by Letty Thomas, wants to skip the banter, and she delivers an acerbic diatribe on the falsity of the conventions and stratagems of the dating experience. There is certainly lots of humour in her insights, but her aggression and obvious self-hate have an uncomfortable edge. On the other hand, Man, played by Archie Backhouse, is trying to apologise his way into a relationship in which he can just relax. While it might seem that they are incompatible, she, nevertheless, proposes that they could establish a relationship. Her insistence on "truth" and his desire to please hardly seem to be much of a basis for getting together, but their dysfunctions might prove compatible. The second half of the play is then a catalogue of the goals they have for being a couple and the compromises they could make in a co-dependency. The generic naming of the characters suggests that there is a universality in their experience, and they do seem more like exaggerated types, rather than individuals. Thus, while the audience may recognise and laugh at aspects of their own experience here, they probably don't identify much with this twosome. That said, full points to Thomas and Backhouse who make their dialogue both engrossing and entertaining. Strategic Love Play is a sharp and amusing satire on the contemporary dating experience that provides many laughs and some harsh insights.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Rebecca Need Menear

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