Jessica (whose name isn’t actually Jessica but people at work have been calling her that too long to be corrected) has a theory about love. She believes that everyone has a person out there waiting for them, waiting to be reunited with their soul’s other half, as Aristotle put it. She also believes that it’s her task to facilitate this quest between the man-alone and woman-alone who live in the glass building opposite her. The lengths to which ‘Jessica’ goes in order to have her two neighbours fall for each other are borderline psychotic and one would easily classify her as a creepy stalker – think flowers delivered, photomontages slipped in laptop bags and mugging. However, it’s hard to believe that this dizzy and ever-smiling believer in love means but well, and this is what keeps the audience hooked throughout the piece. Even though one is constantly aware that ‘Jessica’ is slightly off the rails and might really do well with some companionship, she is also a very lovely character and the audience can’t but feel with her.
Jennifer Williams has a gift for entertaining the audience and pulling them into her imaginary world. With no set and minimal props she manages to convey an extremely detailed make-believe landscape of tall buildings and lonely people, which her character is determined to change. The show alternates the narrative with Jessica’s reflections about the decline of romance and the fake idea of love churned out by Richard Curtis’s comedies. All is divided into brief chapters aptly indicated by hand-written signs that Williams constantly turns to, perhaps to make sure that the audience doesn’t get lost. But there’s no risk, given her talent for clarity and engaging her spectators. Operation: Love Story is storytelling at its best. It is one of those free Fringe gems that deserves more attention and, while one might hope that Williams returns next year with a ticketed show, the fact that show is free perhaps makes it even more special.