From Mountview London graduate’s company Some Riot Theatre,
The gags come thick and past, in the perfect blend of up-to-date, modern, and referential humour, without being self-aware or overdone
A Series of Unfortunate Breakups follows the stories of four couples. The first: two young loves still in school. Patricia (Lucy Burke) quite likes her boyfriend Derek (Luke Bailey), most of the time, but her one true love is none other than pop sensation Harry Styles. Patricia can’t quite make up her mind over which guy to choose. The second: a couple in their twenties – Lexi (Abigail Ribbans) and Johnson (Tom Manning) – have been together five years until Johnson makes the biggest mistake of his life, sleeping with “Spoony Booney”, a Reebok-wearing floozy. The third and fourth couples are Robbie (Liam Darby) with his old girlfriend-turned-ex-girlfriend Emmy (Lucy Danser) and new girlfriend-turned-ex-girlfriend Penelope (Heather Howard). Robbie is your typical two-sandwiches-short-of-a-picnic pretty boy. Emmy, sweet and desperately in love, begins their storyline by giving him her virginity. When they break up he starts dating the manic Penny, who loves nothing better than a great party theme and talking at a hundred miles an hour.
A strong company, they are evidently cohesive and terrifically well-rehearsed. The rest of the company not in-scene stand behind the action providing comic-relief and ‘special effects’, which is a clever touch showing the thought that went into the work. The gags come thick and past, in the perfect blend of up-to-date, modern, and referential humour, without being self-aware or overdone. While there are some stand-out comedic performances, namely Burke and Howard, the whole company generally held their own.
Ribbans and Manning have a harder time than most in the brunt of the ‘heart-wrenching’ bits. Unfortunately, it’s in these parts that the script and dialogue feels the stalest and least believable. The cheating angle is a tricky thing to get right on stage; Ribbans had a few beautiful, and hilarious, moments but it was often interrupted by turgid phrasing. Manning’s face more often than not betrayed his lack of conviction in his character. Darby also seemed to struggle at times, especially next to two such excellently played female characters. Where Danser was moving, and Howard was funny, Darby seemed a little lost, throwing out his jokes, on occasion, quite half-heartedly.
I feel the need now to emphasise that these problems were by no means deal-breakers and the show was strong, showcasing some of the best of this group of young performers. The letter Patricia read towards the close is sublime in its sweetness. If you’re looking for a funny, easy to watch show with loveable characters and cracking jokes, this is the show for you.