Signal Failure

Under Peter Darney’s direction, Sasha Ellen’s Signal Failure is a romantic comedy that wanders happily between the serious and the downright silly. The show begins as any play that concerns itself with the London Underground should, with the unspoken rules of the commuter. The familiar fest of people-watching in public transport is examined with precision and meticulous detail. The script brilliantly captures the awkwardness of the tube along with the calculated system of rules that govern social interactions in such public spaces, from fleeting eye-contact to nervous smiles and accidental physical contact. Running on a lonely hearts column of people spotted on the tube, the play follows two misfits who find themselves romantically intertwined in a comical and, ultimately, incredibly moving production.

The script brilliantly captures the awkwardness of the tube along with the calculated system of rules that govern social interactions in such public spaces

There’s Brian, the self-confessed “guy who sabotages people’s sex strawberries,” played by a charming Spencer Cowan, a “young sexy Boris Johnson.” He first appears to us as a strange modern day Emma; transplanted from the pages of Austen, he’s a modern-day matchmaker who spies lovers on the tube and gives them that extra push, although apparently not always in the right direction.

This intense fixation on the lives of others gets complicated when Brian himself falls victim to the enthusiastic eye-contact of the endearing Lorna. New in the city and finding her feet, she’s the shot of life that Brian needs in his newly removed life as a night-shift chef, a fervent observer of others. Lorna forces him to reevaluate the manner in which he engages with others, but also with himself.

Sasha Ellen’s touching tale explores how love can be found even in the recesses of the underground. It’s witty, honest and feels disarming real as the show tightropes between comedy and tragedy. One moment we’re being walked step by cringeworthy step through a sex scene, the next a tragic reflective monologue of deep, irreversible loss.

Both Ellen and Cowan embody their characters perfectly: they’re utterly believable, not just because they’re relatable but because they’re complicated. This romantic comedy reaches above and beyond. It’s a beautiful rendition of two people finding their way through the world one stop at a time, a journey that’s a joy to take.

Reviews by Thea Hawlin

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The Blurb

A girl and (kind-of) stalker guy journey through life, love and London’s transport system, until a newspaper column brings them together! Big-city virgin Lorna’s missing her mother as she adjusts to bustle and noise of Stockwell and her rampant flatmates. Reclusive night chef Brian’s the proud owner of the cleanest skirting boards in London. Brief encounters give way to (awkward) sexual encounters, but the course of London transport never did run smooth. Expect accidents, delays and severe signal failure as two damaged people try to cross the gap in this twisted rom-com. ‘Delightfully funny’ **** (Scotsman on Githa).