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Strategic Love Play | Soho Theatre

Strategic Love Play, which is written by Miriam Battye and directed by Katie Posner, is a hilarious and charming perspective on the many challenges that dating brings. Focusing on the intricate details that accompanies a first date, this play attempts to be a fool proof strategy to combat the awkwardness. 

The play begins with an exceptionally awkward first date between 'Woman' (Letty Thomas) and "Man" (Archie Backhouse), as the two attempt to overcome initial nerves and figure out what they're each seeking. The tension builds up with slow momentum, with several rather intense scenes as they face cross roads in furthering their relationship. 'Woman' eventually suggests a "strategic relationship", yet with the natural chemistry, friendship and understanding of the characters, it becomes a thoroughly engaging almost love story. 

The two performers, Thomas and Backhouse, are both wonderful and are equally balanced, with their opposing approaches and delightful quirks. Thomas handles the whiplash mood swings with ease and grace, and can effectively raise or sink the tone of the piece. She makes good use of physical storytelling, allowing the smallest of gestures to expand on how she feels.  Contrastingly, Backhouse is a subtler but equally impactful force. His instantly likable energy and charismatic approach serves as the play's emotional crux. With a deeply heart-felt performance, Backhouse really shines in the role. Thomas and Backhouse have clear chemistry on stage. 

The writing is excellent, with every line of dialogue deservedly receiving laughter from the audience. Whether it's a witty comment, an awkward anecdote, a nervous ramble or even a throwaway comment, every line has been carefully crafted by Battye to evoke an audience reaction. Thomas and Backhouse really bring the words to life, adding their own flair in the mix. However, despite the excellent writing, the play wavers a little in terms of narrative, often sacrificing a clear forward driven plot for funny anecdotes or exaggerated actions. The play staggers a little, stewing in jokes or concepts a little too long at times; time that may have been better spent in developing the plot. 

The set, which has been designed by Rhys Jarman, is small, choosing only to use a self-contained section centre stage. A slightly raised circular wooden platform, with a table, overhead lamp and two chairs. Whilst initially simple, a fun moment of theatricality leads to a discovery that it revolves, a brilliant decision that features throughout to add a visually stunning layer to high tension scenes. The lighting (Rajiv Pattani) compromises of several lamps that glow various hues of white and yellow, and provides a comfortable warmth. A cold blue occasionally emerges from the set, along with a heavy rustle of glass (Beth Duke), creating an exciting dramatic moment. 

Strategic Love Play is a fascinating and hilarious play that guarantees its audience a good time. Strategic Love Play is currently playing at the Soho Theatre until the 15th June - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Pamela Raith


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