Mates is set in a Vanilla Sky-type universe where citizens are put into a digital incubator system to be matched up with their soul mates by an algorithm. The catch is that leaving one’s allocated mate is punishable by execution. Another catch is that once you are in the system, you cannot leave and re-enter the world unless you fall in love with your partner and make a baby. It is impossible to die in the match-making system, and anyone who dies simply gets “reloaded,” starting from the beginning with one’s allocated mate. Exploring freedom of choice - in a way reminiscent of the Matrix - the play follows the lives of four characters who fight for the freedom to re-enter the world and to be with a desired partner against the government’s commands.

Overall, the show has several engaging scenes and makes effective use of video clips projected onto the backdrop, but the script requires some revisions for it to be a truly successful play.

It is a compelling plot and we get to find out the implications and consequences of a promising concept. It transpires, for example, that the state has in one case exploited the match-making system. A criminal and a lesbian are deliberately matched up, to cordon them off from the rest of the world that they are considered hazardous to.

There are several problematic points in the character development, however, which are not appropriately addressed. It turns out that Dan, the ex-criminal, has repeatedly attacked his lesbian mate, out of frustration towards her unwillingness to return his feelings. He has tried to rape her, has smashed her head through the wall, and even killed her once. The play brushes off this history of violence simply as an inevitable consequence of being placed in the system, placing the blame not on the criminal, but on the flawed nature of the match-making algorithm. Even more puzzlingly, the criminal is heralded later on in the play for having once been a type of freedom-fighter. This questionable treatment of domestic violence is an aspect of the script that needs revising.

There is some fine acting from Izzy Eadie, who plays Simmi, one of the overseers of the mates. Playing disinterested and managerially efficient at first, Eadie successfully allows her vulnerability to come through, as she begins to reveal her own past as a mate in the system. Annie Harris also gives a solid performance as Sian, the self-proclaimed “guardian angel” of the two couples on stage. Being infertile, she displays signs of schizophrenia, as she tries to convince herself that she is perfectly fine alone, while revealing that she is also a victim of the state’s oppressive scheme.

The dialogue feels wordy at times, especially when a couple occupies a scene for an extended period of time. Additionally, a tighter connection could be established between the two couples on stage. Overall, the show has several engaging scenes and makes effective use of video clips projected onto the backdrop, but the script requires some revisions for it to be a truly successful play.

Reviews by Kyung Oh

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

With the human race threatened by a polluted environment, an environment that after prolonged exposure causes infertility, the government has created an incubator in which men and women are sent until they reproduce. While a database judges compatibility to match a man and woman with one another, a process similar to that of modern dating websites, even those unable to conceive have a place within this artificial reality, tracking the progress of assigned couples. Mates follows Sian as she oversees two couples, acting as their dysfunctional guardian angel and trying to counteract the government’s intentions for them.