Adventurous review – Zoom dating drama is warmly witty | Theatre


A pandemic drama that centres on two people in a Zoom conversation is a risky venture at this late stage of lockdown. Not only have many of us had our fill of virtual exchanges but seen them prosaically reflected back to us on screen, complete with well-worn “you’re on mute” jokes and technical glitches.

So it is surprising that Ian Hallard’s debut play about a mid-life couple who meet on an online dating site during the pandemic manages to be so engaging and fresh.

Richard (played by Hallard) is a mild-mannered history teacher and recent divorcee, while Ros (Sara Crowe), who has spent most of her life caring for her late disabled sister, is quirkier than she first appears.

Directed by Khadifa Wong for Jermyn Street theatre in London, they take their first tentative steps towards virtual romance. The action is mainly structured around their Zoom meetings, which begin early on in the first lockdown and continue largely online, though there is one physical meeting – a pub date in the summer between lockdowns in which Richard is too apprehensive about the virus even for a peck on the cheek.

The dialogue is particularly adept at catching a quintessentially British brand of social awkwardness as the couple meet for the first time, from their stiff smiles to their nervous babbling and small talk. The conversational crossed wires are especially funny and Hallard has an ear for accidental humour that makes for moments of supreme silliness.

Ian Hallard (Richard) and Sara Crowe (Ros) in Adventurous, directed by Khadifa Wong. Jermyn Street Theatre on Stream.Theatre
‘From stiff smiles to nervous babbling and small talk’ … Adventurous, directed by Khadifa Wong for Jermyn Street theatre.

“I like your dress,” says Richard, during an awkward silence, and then goes on to ask a bemused Ros whether its floral pattern features dahlias or chrysanthemums. He mentions the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions), which is mistaken for the DUP by her, with Arlene Foster mixed up with Strictly’s Arlene Phillips.

The tickling humour in these crossed lines has a winning quality. So do the central characters, who are gently satirised for their outlooks on race and sexuality, and more generally their middle Englishness, but are played so endearingly that they remain eminently likeable.

There is deliberately anachronistic humour thrown in, with 1970s-style double entendres about “pipes [that] need to be seen to” and nudge-wink references to pictures of aubergines that Ros is too naive to understand.

The first part of the drama is static, featuring merely the actors’ faces on a split screen. Richard’s glamorous, demanding ex-wife (Katherine Jakeways) is later thrown into the mix, taking the story in the direction of a suburban farce. The plot seems to twist in too many ways towards the end: the artfully written early scenes work best. Ros and Richard are an oddly charming couple, warm and witty without knowing it, it seems. They would make a great double act in a sitcom, wittering on like latterday versions of George and Mildred.

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