Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden, London 9.30pm, until Sat 25th Aug
Being in something of a state of ill health – I apologise unreservedly to the actors for sneezing – I was not a little concerned that a weak production in ‘It’s Complicated‘ might just send me to sleep. But happily, this upbeat comedy kept me awake and chuckling through the hour.
Shortlisted for the Harry Porter Prize, Cambridge University’s main comic playwriting award, ‘It’s Complicated‘ follows Daniel (Matt Lim) in his misguided belief that a long-distance relationship will solve all his girlfriend woes. Daniel Henry Kaes, the writer, has a keen eye for the one-liner, and quips between the lead and his internal monologue zing, but unfortunately the writing does let the play down – in a desperate attempt to be original, the central plotline feels hackneyed, the well-foreshadowed dramatic encounter of Daniel’s various paramours heavy-handed and contrived, while the meaningful moral statements regarding the dangerous effects of social media on emotional relationships feel uncomfortably shoehorned in. Equally, the production is directed by “The Cast”, and this is an error – the awkward shuffling around stage and clunky geometry gets in the way of a series of strong performances: Lim’s awkwardness and shifty eyes are endlessly entertaining, and his three female co-stars each sparkle in her own way, though particular mention must go to Amy Spinks’ long-suffering flatmate Jo, with whom Daniel finds himself sharing the most chemistry. A sharply constructed cameo from Will Seaward lightens the tone with a little slapstick, and a series of projections provide some extra wisecracks.
The play has a lot of strengths, and the self-deprecating humour is interesting and refreshing, but Kaes could do with a good editor and a more thoughtful director to really bring the piece to life. The team are brimming with potential, but right now the show’s patchy, predictable and slow in places. Perfectly pleasant viewing, but Kaes has clearly got a lot to say and not yet the ideal way of saying it. But there’s time and space for this to grow and mark my words, you’ve not seen the last from this lot.