Writer: Annie Jenkins
Director: Lucy McCann
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Previously seen at the Camden Fringe in 2018, Annie Jenkins’ A Tinder Trilogy comprises three monologues from young women who are facing down various dating demons.
The title is something of a misnomer: while the Tinder app is credited with the “swipe left”/“swipe right” method of dismissing or accepting connections based on looks alone, there’s no great exploration of what impact that has had on dating.
What the app, and the myriad others like it, has done is allow for new dates to be found quickly – and it is this side-effect that feeds into each of the three monologues. In the first, Tinder471, serial dater Geri (Mollie Macpherson) has to deal with getting an abortion after getting pregnant; in My Son is in the Kitchen Eating a Biscuit,Jonna Blode Hanno’s Beth has a childhood trauma resurface when a sex game with a new girlfriend goes wrong; and in Sausage Roll Moment, George (Tiegan Byrne) faces Christmas without her best friend after the latter moves in with a date she met on Tinder.
The first of these feels the most coherent and well structured. Macpherson’s Geri is a carefree 26-year-old who tends not to think about consequences. Fiddling with an electronic Tamagotchi – a recent purchase reminding her of the craze from twenty years ago – she has thrown away the instructions without considering them.
Jenkins avoids making too direct a link between caring for an electronic pet and caring for a child; instead it is a metaphor for Geri’s lack of thought. Her mind wanders all over the place, which is great for the rambling tragicomedy of Jenkins’s monologue writing skills: for Geri, though, it as if she has decided to throw away life’s instruction booklet, instead jabbing at buttons in the hope that something will happen.
The subsequent two monologues feel less substantial in comparison. Blode Hanno is a live wire, twitchily off her face on cocaine and watching a succession of viral videos while she tries to work out where her latest date went wrong. Jenkins hides all the clues to the traumatic events in Beth’s past in amongst the comedic anecdotes, starting with a childhood fear of Michael Jackson hiding under the bed (and the subsequent purchase of a bread knife with her picket money). But there comes along with the comedy the persistent doubt that Beth roots her lesbianism in failed, abusive relationships with men; said out loud once as a joke, maybe, but in a way that colours the rest of the monologue.
The final monologue is perhaps the weakest of the three, despite elements which make it the most poignant. The main problem with Sausage Roll Moment, which sees Byrne’s George gorging on festive Gregg’s pastries as she rues the loss of her best friend, is that George is the least interesting character in the world Jenkins conjures.
Instead, we are more interested in the friend who, after a string of failed dates with men, tries “Girl Tinder” and quickly gains a girlfriend whose constant presence nudges George out of her friend’s life. Again, there’s an undercurrent (presumably unintentional) of women’s same-sex attraction being a reaction to men rather than innate.
There is something heartbreaking in the story of two girl friends who split up because one of them finds a girlfriend; the loneliness of the left behind colours Jenkins’s writing, and there are flashes of something compelling among the bleakness. But all too often, Jenkins feels the need for the shock laugh, puncturing the mood and reducing George from a character to a caricature.
And that, perhaps, points to the biggest problem with all three monologues: while they illustrate Jenkins’s ability to create vivid scenes through words, and her gift for crafting a rudely comedic line, those attributes tend to take a higher place in A Tinder Trilogy than they should, resulting in three characters which are not as distinct from each other as they should be. For the trio, it’s a case of “Swipe right, then left, then left again.”
Continues until June 29 2019 | Image: Contributed