Algorithms – Soho Theatre, London

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Sadie Clark

Director: Madelaine Moore

The triumph of hope over experience. Samuel Johnson may have been talking about second marriages, but his witticism more appropriately describes the horrors of online dating. Algorithms by Sadie Clark, playing at the Soho Theatre, is filled with millennial angst about love, relationships and the avalanche of toxic influences pummelling us not only to be perfect and successful, but also to show it.

Turning 30 in only four weeks’ time, Brooke’s bitter break-up with girlfriend Amira leaves her spiralling. A rom com addict with a pushy mother desperate for her to find ‘the one’, Brooke decides to try out the dating app she writes compatibility algorithms for, believing that her fool proof methods will find the love of her life in no time. As it turns out, love isn’t a science.

Returning to the Soho Theatre for a second time and originally developed three years ago, Algorithms remains a sharpy insightful piece about the burden of expectation placed on young women to be anything but themselves, and the character of Brooke struggles to accept her value as she questions her attractiveness, suitability and sometimes even her sanity.

The first Bridget Jones movie becomes a continually reference point and Clark leaves her character watching it as comfort television as well as drawing on its plot points to frame her romantic journey. But Clark’s use of online dating as the comedy platform for Brooke’s hilarious round of terrible dates as well as the continual pressure that comes with living vicariously through other people’s more alluring Instagram feeds, brings the story up to date as Brooke tries to navigate the public impact of her choices.

Running at around 60-minutes, Brooke builds a rapport with the audience. Although the monologue occasionally tips into self-pity, Clark offers just enough humiliation in the comedy scenarios to make her character both likeable and empathetic. The prim, subtly judgemental mother is well draw as is the snarky dating company boss who insists on naming her meeting rooms after animals who mate for life, while the round of ineffectual dates and occasional moments of wild abandon contrast nicely with Brooke’s slightly geeky tendencies to use maths and spreadsheets to solve her problems.

Performing as Brooke, Clark keeps the energy going for the length of the show, carrying the audience with her as places, times and people hurtle by. There is something incredibly hopeful about Brooke, raised to believe in the Hollywood happy ending, and Clark shows the higher the character builds her dreams the harder they fall when the reality of modern dating clashes amusingly with the rom com ideals.

In many ways, Algorithms is a very London story with dates happening at Piccadilly comedy clubs and Hackney Wick warehouse parties, while the Northern Line proves ever reliable as a punchline, but there is a universality of experience that Clark nicely taps into. And while the show’s messaging and structure finds is hard to entirely wave goodbye to the romantic comedy template, for Brooke and the audience, there is comfort in knowing we’ve all been there.

Runs until 11 December 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Universality of experience

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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