It’s easy to know why we are continually drawn to romcoms: we can't help but fall in love with the simplicity of happy endings. The only problem is that happy endings aren't as straightforward as the movies make out. Sunsets is a one woman show - written and performed by Georgie Grier - about Denver, a romcom obsessive, bubbly, podcaster, hosting her first live recording. It’s the last episode of a podcast series that has followed the story of her falling in love with her childhood sweetheart. We’re invited to the finale; all of her episodes have been themed around romcom clichés, and this one is fittingly titled ‘The Grand Gesture’. However, it soon becomes clear that something is off, and we get to watch the event unravel on stage.
Fresh and heartfelt
Grier maintains a frenetic pace throughout, which brings plenty of energy to Rotunda stage, but also often doesn't give the jokes enough space to land. Audience interaction is not handled with the necessary authority, resulting in some confusion as to whether the audience needs to respond, or how they should. Similarly, there is not always enough definition between characters (particularly Denver and her best friend) to always clearly follow who is talking. Bamboozlement is a reoccurring theme whilst watching. Throughout, the audience is assailed with a multitude of romcom references, fourth wall breaking moments, new character introductions, flashbacks, the live podcast recording framework, and more: it can be a lot to keep track of at such speed. Forget boy meets girl, Sunsets is a lot more complex than that, and it's a challenge to try and explain and unpick in just one hour.
However, once you've got your head around all the twists and turns, there are some very interesting ideas. The podcast industry boom is ripe for satire, and Grier is clearly enough of a fan to cleverly hone in on the topics that are ripe for the picking: her snippets of podcast sponsors were a particularly humorous highlight. Her teenage flashbacks also feel very genuine - who hasn’t read a little too optimistically between the lines, hoping to discover secret declarations of love from their crush? And, whilst Grier might not be exactly targeting new territory with the romcom criticisms, her approach is fresh and heartfelt.
Grier is perhaps the only one who truly understands the complex narrative she's scripted; there are plenty of callbacks and clues dropped during the course of the play that come to light later on, but unfortunately the full impact of the puzzle completion is numbed amongst the noise of everything else. Yet, there’s still plenty to fall in love with. Grier is an extremely likeable and compelling stage presence - you can’t fail to warm to her. The heightened atmosphere of the show’s end is well-earned, and it’s here that Grier really earns her acting chops. A few script edits would help this highly emotive moment to really shine.
It might not be an uncomplicated journey, but you’ll be happy that you took the chance to walk into the sunset with Denver. After all, the course of true love never did run smooth.