Rob Drummond, a man scientific of mind and mien, might make an unlikely Cilla, but in this dating-show-cum-pop-science-lecture, he finds a charming way of exploring the coupling instinct through a boy-meets-girl routine involving audience members. It’s certainly a sweeter show than anything Ms Black, Paddy McGuinness or, God forbid, Naked Attraction, have done, and might yet prove successful before the Fringe is out. I hope he’s got his wedding hat ready.
Drummond arrives on stage to a cheesy game show backdrop and begins the process of whittling down the audience to singles who are looking for love. They join him on stage for a series of yes/no questions, on the basis of which he selects a pair to work on. These two are then put through a series of activities (nothing too racy!) aimed at bringing them closer together to test whether we can see the coupling process in action. The audience, especially the long, happily married, get to chime in with their own experiences, in the hope that between us, we can distil what makes a relationship click. Our host happily puts to the fore his own fifteen year relationship, and the doubts, fears and wonder associated with it, as further food for thought.
It lightly poses questions like ‘What constitutes cheating?’, without pushing answers upon us. We’re invited to explore our own romantic or lustful motivations, but no judgement is ever implied. Drummond himself is an analyser, and he’s at home flicking through slides of brain scans for evidence of activity associated with love. At the same time, he’s alive to beautiful, intangible notions like romance. This is not a show that extracts all the joy from human experience with a sneery ‘yeah, but it’s just neurons’.
Inevitably, some of the success of the show lies in the hands of audience members. Today, among the singletons, he’s gifted an impossibly adorable pair of young actors who could’ve walked off the set of a kooky rom-com; you’re almost willing him to select someone else, just to make it difficult for himself. In fact, he openly acknowledges the hetero-normative nature of the show early on when he’s left with just one gay single on the stage and has to send him back to the audience. He’s obviously sensitive to the issue, but it would be interesting to see how the show progressed with a less to-script couple, be that on grounds of age, sexuality or appearance. Buy up the 100 tickets with your most diverse group of friends and see!
We also benefit today from a smattering of witty old wags in the audience happy to dish out bon mots with impeccable timing. There’ll always be one to help spur the show on, but the show’s particularly blessed with this crowd.
There’s a wonderful climax (not that kind) and a simple, human pleasure in sharing in a potential new couple’s first moments which never feels voyeuristic. At least until they strip each other naked and start making love on stage. (NB. This doesn’t happen. Although there are some late night time slots, and this is the Fringe, so you never know…)