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Greyscale review at the Vaults, London – ‘high-concept exploration of dating and consent’

Tom Campion and Edie Newman in Greyscale at Vault Festival, London. Photo: Ali Wright

Last year’s Babe.net article in which a woman detailed her disastrous date with comedian Aziz Ansari, while an ethically questionable piece of journalism, shone a light on the complexities of consent particularly when further muddied with power, money and celebrity.

This short piece by Madeline Gould and Joel Samuels seeks to explore that terrain. It consists of two monologues written independently and intended to provide different perspectives on a Tinder date. Over the course of the run, the monologues will be performed by a quartet of actors, paired in different ways, in male-female and same-sex couples, to further draw out these ideas.

It’s an interesting conceit, let down by the execution. Performed to nine people at a time, the two monologues, exploring the emotional fall-out of the date between Lucy and Jamie, are sandwiched around a scene depicting the date itself. The audience is invited to watch this unfold in a specially constructed ‘flat’ – basically a big box with peepholes cut in it. Rather than intriguingly voyeuristic, this just feels awkward – a group of people squinting into a flimsy plywood container in a Waterloo back-alley in the cold. If anything it actively works against the premise. The peepholes makes it hard to work out exactly what’s going on physically between the couple, whereas the dialogue makes it clear she’s unhappy with the way the date is unfolding.

Of the two monologues, performed by Niamh McGowan and Imran Momen in the version I saw, hers contains a plausible mixture of regret and confusion, but his spiel about how attractive he finds beautiful women who don’t know they’re beautiful just makes you want to upend his pint in his lap. Neither piece of writing is particularly nuanced and the interrogation of the audience about their own dating behaviour feels heavy-handed.

As a conversation-starter it just about passes muster, but as a theatrical experiment it feels a bit flimsy.

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Verdict
Intriguingly high-concept, if awkwardly executed, exploration of consent and contemporary dating culture
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