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BlackCatfishMusketeer review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘intricate, intelligent play’

Aoife Spratt in BlackCatfishMusketeer
Aoife Spratt in BlackCatfishMusketeer

Romantic comedies can be toxic. More often than not they reduce love to something neat and clean, full of easily surmounted obstacles.

Irish company Malaprop Theatre reinvigorates the form with its show BlackCatfishMusketeer, a rom com for the age of Tinder. After connecting via a dating app, Adam and Zadie embark on a relationship conducted purely via their phones. They toy with the idea of meeting but it never quite comes to pass. Life gets in the way and it’s clear they are both word people, most comfortable when exchanging Wikipedia links about the theories of Karl Popper or GIFs of goats.

One of many brilliant things about Dylan Coburn Gray’s intricate, intelligent play is the way in which it represents digital interaction. Instead of bombarding the audience with lights and projections, Aoife Spratt, dressed as a demure librarian in a pussy-bow blouse and retro specs, describes the links, songs and photos the couple send one another.

Catherine Russell and Ste Murray manage to convey a sense of chemistry while also suggesting the emotional and geographic distance between the characters.

A love of language permeates the play, as does a gently subversive quality: Adam and Zadie spend fair amount of time discussing their use of porn.

While director Claire O’Reilly keeps things pacey, it’s the dialogue that really delights. Dense in the best way, it’s crammed with shining lines, while also being insightful and illuminating about the anxieties of modern dating and the different shapes that intimacy can take in a digital world.

Verdict
Intricate, witty, smart and sweet new take on the romantic comedy  
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