It's been quite a while since I've come across a brand new writer (at least on my radar) who has impressed me with their originality and 'voice'. Michelle Sewell is such a person. Her double bill of plays at Bread & Roses Theatre makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking 90 minutes. I half-expected the evening to jump straight into a play about dating apps, but I was very pleasantly surprised to be confronted by a play that looked at 'love' from an unconventional angle – and something very topical to boot. Both plays were directed by Lydia Parker.
Even before the present government's 'commitment' to clamping down on immigration, the touchy subject of bringing to light 'sham' marriages frequently makes the headlines. Set in the government department that handles visas for non-British visitors, Border Control as a play would fit perfectly with the Brexit-led Where Are We Now? plays that ran recently at Southwark Playhouse for Little Pieces of Gold.
Assessing and debating the authenticity of non-British citizens plannng to marry and stay in the UK, a team of three pore over every little detail regarding the 'courtship' of Yasmin Abdullah and Edward Frost. Nothing is sancrosanct, as the immgration officers dissect and analyse e-mail correspondence and social media for evidence that corroborates or throws doubt on the couple's testimonies.
Every couple has its ups and downs, but under the scrutiny of the immigration officers, every 'hiccup' is a potential 'flaw' in the couple's relationship – though a 'perfect' story is 'suspicous' too...
A very good play indeed and one that contextualises modern relationships in today's political climate...
The second half of the evening looked at one of the more familiar/modern ways for men and women to 'make connections' – via Tinder. Within the play there are three active users of the app: Liz (Olivia Onyehara), Aaron (Jay Oliver Yip) and James (Geoffrey Wolfe). As a student, Liz is the youngest and most vulnerable of the three. Sure she's there 'for a bit of fun' and meet people she may not ordinarily meet otherwise, but so do most people who use the app. Is it possible to meet anybody of 'relationship material' on there and if so, would you admit to it?
Within the play Tinder has alternative uses have been found for the app. While Aaron and James are ostensibly 'straight', they end up swiping right and strike up a friendship - moving from playing Guess Who to eventually meeting in person for pizza. In this world of digital connectivity, real flesh and blood friends who one spends time with are not as common as it is purported - as much of a myth as the perfect profiles and lifestyles on Tinder and Facebook...
Liz's encounter with 'the mattress' and the pressure to 'go with the flow' is a very real reminder of the dangers that women have on dates – both with 'strangers' and men who 'know' them in some capacity and think this entitles them to something extra... While sex is certainly foremost on the mind of at least one Tinder-user, one character doesn't want a one-night stand, but a fully-fledged relationship - much to the bewilderment of the other party. Is it realistically possible to find on Tinder something that will stand the test of time, or is that a pipedream?
© Michael Davis 2016
Love, Sex and Apps runs at Bread and Roses Theatre until 3rd December 2016.