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Swipe
The Hen and Chickens
20th August 2016

★★★☆☆

Publicity image for Swipe

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Dating is bloody brutal. These days, people are so busy in real life that online dating has really taken off out of necessity, more than anything else. Once you leave full-time education, how often do you meet new, eligible people in the same age bracket? The downside though of going online and having so many options is... having so many options. No one seems to date exclusively anymore, and with a wider pool in which to go fishing, there seems to be a wider pool of weirdos too. In a word, "ugh". Alyssa Salter's new play Swipe draws on those frustrations of being a single woman today with a series of comments and scenarios explaining just how damn hard it is nowadays.

The show initially consists of a series of statements by the six-strong ensemble (including Salter herself), revealing cringeworthy lines from online suitors and dates from hell. Each woman gives a really powerful, assured delivery here, and the format makes it feel very conspiratorial, like we're all sharing stories in a safe environment even if there isn't any audience interaction. It then switches into a piece of drama where 1950s-esque Ghosts of Dating Past (Salter, Laura-Jean Richardson and Joanne Sealey) attempt to offer a simpler solution to some disillusioned daters (Lisa Ashby and Shannon Evison). Simpler, but necessarily better, as the ghosts point out. Are things really so bad today, or are we just dealing with an equal but different set of romantic woes?

Whilst the production is fun at all times, it does feel like the change in style saps a bit of energy from proceedings with director Jamie Michael Turner struggling to keep the audience engagement up at this point. Whilst scenes between Ashby and Sarah MacKenzie are touching and show a less angry side to the production, I think the attempt to create interest by mixing things up backfires. The use of clapping to transition each scene though is a nice touch. The opening scenes are really punchy and nicely done, almost like a modern, more likeable modern day version of the Vagina Monologues. There's a similarly strong feminist theme however this time the angry, shouty women on stage are shouting the same things that you are. More importantly, rather than being the sort of show that you feel you should see, it's the sort of show that you actually want to see.

Although the clothing choices are simple, they demonstrate thought, with the women all wearing complementing styles of black and denim. Evison wears a cute Bardot dress, with MacKenzie donning more casual hot pants. With all the girls making ever so slightly different costume choices, it underlines the diversity even amongst a small group of half a dozen. Choices after all are key to the production's message: Salter counsels against nude pics, Evison decides they're not a bad idea if you trust the recipient. It's all about following your own judgement rather than allowing yourself to be judged.

There may be no answers for how to find the partner of your dreams in today's very modern world, but at the very least, Swipe leaves you with the reassurance that if you ever struggle, you're not alone. Funny and relatable, this is an entertaining piece of theatre.

Swipe opened on 18th August and runs until 21st August 2016 at the Hen and Chicken, as part of the Camden Fringe.

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



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