Writers: Saul Boyer and Poppy Damon
Directors: Kennedy Bloomer and Toby Hampton
There’s much to like in this punchy, well-written romcom about a back and forth, push-pull relationship. With plenty of richly comic moments, the play takes on the stock elements of the genre and gives them a fresh spin, both satirising millennial tropes, and using that knowing perspective to lend an ironic edge to the form.
Saul Boyer’s Max is hugely likeable and his charisma, at once both wildly exuberant and apologetic, is at the heart of the show. The opening number, a Motown style belter (‘I’m a Jew … one of God’s chosen few’), captures this deftly – after his big, bombastic performance he ducks off stage, apologising.
Edie Newman’s portrayal of TJ, while equally polished, is dominated – at least initially – by a verbal style that seems to satirise a certain self-regarding and self-serious millennial type. This is underscored by TJ’s ‘art’, an act which explores ‘a gender-neutral manatee’ through ‘the medium of interpretive dance’. The satire seems a little heavy handed here, and makes it hard to be fully invested in TJ’s character – which is a problem when the will-they-won’t-they dynamic is so important.
It does become clear that there is more to TJ than is at first apparent, and we grow to realise that part of her attachment to Max is an attachment to his family, and a desire to share in the seeming coherence and community of Jewish identity. The allure of Jewishness is a fascinating theme, and while the play is clearly engaged with the idea of British Jewishness, it’s telling that the ending reveals the pull of America – a country where Jewish identity is more defined, and celebrated. Given the recent conversations about Jewishness in Britain (spearheaded in part by David Baddiel’s book Jews Don’t Count), we might see the play as part of a wider cultural interest in creating a similarly confident sense of Jewishness here.
This feels like just the beginning for this play: there’s clearly potential for much bigger things. Simon Pegg redefined comic horror for his generation with Shaun of the Dead, and Saul Boyer and Poppy Damon may just do the same for the millennial romcom.
Runs here until 5 May 2021