Isla Van Tricht’s new short play
Wittily accurate to the reality of using these apps the play humorously portrays the pairs bumbling attempts to start a love affair.
Wittily accurate to the reality of using these apps the play humorously portrays the pairs bumbling attempts to start a love affair. Self-proclaimed as ‘a site-responsive comedy drama’ the huge narrow arching underground space is utilised well to vaguely resemble a tube carriage with benches arranged in makeshift rows and metro newspapers scattered randomly. Spotlighting and overhead audio projection suitably create the various atmospheres required from bustling bar to trundling night tube (the play was written in anticipation of 24 hour tube travel).
The actors present us with likeable archetypes Claire and James, and accurately portray the mixture of nerves, ambivalence, cautious conversation and awkwardness of a first date charged with sexual chemistry and an obvious, real underlying attraction. Unlike many shows about dating that focus solely on single women, Underground presents a balanced view from the male and female perspective that allows the audience to reflect that anxiety and that loneliness is a common thread amongst both sexes.
The story is slightly spoilt in the last 20 minutes by a confusing sequence that sees the two characters hear voices inside their heads, and the introduction of a third, older character whose purpose is never made clear. Although a good portrayal of a typically effusive and slightly cringe-worthy, wise old barman, it is not quite clear whether this character is supposed to draw the pair together or help them feel better about their own lives as single people. Whichever the answer, it doesn’t quite make sense and a simple comedy drama about two people coming together is unnecessarily complicated by the end, as a result.
Underground works overall however, because it presents no easy platitudes and doesn’t descend into a rom-com fantasy. Rather it is an intelligent patchwork of good and bad moments for our protagonists that accurately reflect real life. Moments of connection, anticipation and excitement sit side by side with disappointment, anger and miscommunication in an accurate exploration of loneliness and the search for love within 21st Century London.