views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Hen and Chickens
3rd August 2015


Publicity image for Delicious&Dateless

Photography provided by Nicole Harvey

Would Barbie ever have met Ken in the complex world of modern dating? From apps and websites to speed dating and tango classes, it's not that easy to form real connections anymore. In our throwaway, Tinder-swiping culture, the days of shyly locking eyes are long gone. Plus, we're all much too attached to our phones to notice anyone anyway.

Nicole Harvey is how I imagine a 40-year-old Barbie, minus Ken. Tall, blonde, intelligent, adventurous and well-spoken, Nicole somehow reached her forties and found herself without a man. We join her as she takes us on a journey through her life, from the naïve Yorkshire country girl to the sassy, but somewhat lonely, 40-year-old Londoner. In doing so, she raises lots of questions about the state of modern dating, romance, friendship and society.

This largely autobiographical piece is thoughtful and highly relatable. It will probably appeal to women more than men, but ultimately Nicole's reflections are relevant to both genders. We can all appreciate the challenges of organising a social life on Facebook and reminisce about the simple days when people still made phone calls. I know I do! The piece isn't a typical stand-up comedy show (it's not an hour of non-stop gags and punchlines), but whatever it is, it is fun. While there are a few laugh-out-loud moments, the narrative really keeps you engaged. Nicole has led a colourful life, looking after her horse in Harrogate, studying in Paris, waitressing in Los Angeles (and getting deported for doing so illegally), practising Spanish in Buenos Aires, and navigating the streets of London, all while learning more about life and men.

Some of the best bits of the show come with Nicole reenacting conversations, taking on the voice and personality of a character in her life and responding to the comments with her own words. The strongest are chats with her Yorkshire uncle, who is utterly bewildered by dating technology and Nicole's inability to find a man despite being a "pretty lass". Nicole seamlessly switches between the various characters and her own voice, to great effect. As a linguist, the way she weaves French and Spanish words and accents into her performance while recounting tales of her time abroad adds to the authenticity and sense of place and person. Nicole is certainly not an empty-headed blonde, and the piece is full of clever wording and astute commentary.

The production is well-structured and somewhat cyclical. This is very evidently a piece that has been thoroughly thought through and honed. Director Jonny Freeman also ensures that the full stage is used, and that sound effects and music are woven into the piece where relevant. The performance might, however, have benefited from a few more "laugh until your belly hurts" quips to maintain the audience's attention. And while it was engaging, there was a level of predictability to some of it but, hey, that's life!

With that said, it's an interesting comic piece and Nicole is a charismatic performer. If you're the kind of person who enjoys reading lifestyle blogs and delving into others' lives, it'll almost certainly have something for you.

Delicious&Dateless ran from 3rd to 6th August at the Hen and Chickens, as part of the Camden Fringe. It transfers to Arch 1 on 15th August and Arch 2 from 16th to 22nd August 2015, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Highbury & Islington (Overground, Victoria)

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