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A Better Woman review at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury – ‘impressive’

A Better Woman at Marlowe Theatre. Photo: Mark Douet A Better Woman at Marlowe Theatre. Photo: Mark Douet
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Following the success of Beached! earlier this year, Marlowe Theatre’s second home-grown show offers an adult alternative to Evolution Pantomimes downstairs in the main space with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Tom (Ben Porter) is 40-something and internet dating in a systematic search for a relationship with the potential to last. Eventually, he finds one. It’s a simple enough plot and the production is entirely gimmick-free.

It eschews fancy lighting, shouting, puppetry and artificial smoke. There aren’t even any flashbacks. But the dialogue and situational dynamics are so strong that it works both thoughtfully and entertainingly. There’s a lot to identify with and it’s often very funny.

Porter gives us a nervous, troubled, self-deprecating Tom, haunted by the memory of his ex, Julia (Poppy Miller, who also plays all his dates and shows nice versatility). He makes an especially fine naturalistic job of his several soliloquies.

Alexia Traverse-Healy is terrific as the slightly brittle, humorous, unpredictable Jessica, who is as decisive as Tom is not. And Paul Panting and Charlie Norfolk work pleasingly together as the happily married neighbours/friends who are helping to decorate Tom’s house.

It’s refreshing to see a new play with 21st century content, with a playwright and director who have the confidence to rely on pretty traditional methods to bring it off. The result is impressive and I’m sure we shall hear more of this play.

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Verdict
Strong, gimmick-free storytelling
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