Solo Date is part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s Taiwan Season, a selection of interesting work from the Republic of China that is definitely well worth browsing. Set in the future, in an era where the potential of artificial intelligence has begun to be fully realised, on the surface it is a fairly simple tale of one man’s struggle to deal with the death of his boyfriend. However, as the story progresses, it is clear that this is more than simply a futuristic love story. Rather, it forms a subtle investigation into where identity and personhood lie, how we remember people (especially those we love), and our fragile understanding of reality.
The solo performer, Tsai Pao-Chang, is surrounded by a gauze covered box (whose symbolism only becomes entirely clear by the end of the show), onto which images are projected. This is a highly effective device, although it is perhaps worth noting that this vision of the future (like so many others) is fairly lo-fi, when in fact, given the way technology is progressing, the future is far more likely to be hyper-real.
Tsai Pao-Chang’s character, Ho-Nien, is portrayed rather one-dimensionally, and although we discover later this may have a point to it, it would certainly be beneficial to the play’s climax, to develop his character more robustly. Although the play’s final twist is not easily anticipated, Ho-Nien’s reaction to it is not drawn out of a well-rounded character, leaving the ending a little emotionally flaccid. Further character development may also allow the play to delve more deeply into the many interesting questions it raises, particularly about identity. As it stands, it forms a somewhat tentative investigation.
The timing of the interaction between the projected and the live characters is not always spot on, something that will no doubt improve later in the run, and the serenity of the scene setting, as the audience enter, is interrupted by Assembly’s noisy, pre-performance announcement: this is a real shame.
However despite all this, this is a well-crafted, well-produced story, with an interesting complexity that only becomes entirely evident in its final moments.