Modern dating and a devastating terrorist attack do not, at first, seem like complimentary subject matters for a romantic comedy, and yet in 52Up Production’s new show
The script would be nothing without actor Nicola Wood’s superb performance of it.
Our tale focuses on an unnamed woman who is madly in love with a new boyfriend who, on paper, seems perfect. He’s cute, sexy, funny, loves his mum and is fantastic in bed. The only problem is his pathological obsession with all manner of bizarre conspiracy theories.
This kind of deliberately offbeat subject matter is want to get the better of an inexperienced writer, who can either make it too ridiculous to invest in seriously or too ham-fisted and melodramatic to enjoy, but here the perfect balance is found. The script is able to deftly navigate both extremes to draw out a darkly comedic sense of absurdity that has the audience hysterically laughing one minute then quiet in shock at the next. Writer/director Pip Nixon is able to deftly make the audience sympathise and understand our beleaguered protagonist’s dilemma and to orchestrate her descent into the dark underbelly of conspiracy theories in such a way as to seem natural and completely understandable.
The script would, however, be nothing without actor Nicola Wood’s superb performance of it. Wood is able to bring an infectious joy and warmth to our narrator, and brings a range and versatility to her rendition of the story that grabs the audience from the first line and pulls them into the strange events that occur. She has a complete confidence in her command of the small space that brings the prose to life and centres the audience straight in the middle of the story as it unfolds. It is a testament to her skill as a performer that she is able to take a character that, on the surface, could be played as simply as a middle class champagne feminist stereotype and embody in her such real vulnerability and wit as to make her three-dimensional and full of conflict.
The only thing that blemishes this otherwise stupendous production is the odd case of early-run jitters. A few line flubs here and there that take the audience out of the otherwise well-crafted immersion need to be ironed out as the run continues, but with a cast and script of this talent I am confident they will overcome it.
In the end I heartily recommend this fabulous dark little tale to everyone who’s ever had the odd itch to wonder what’s really going on beneath the surface of what we think is true.