Kissing Frogs – Landor Theatre, London

Writer: Sophie Osborne
Director: John Garfield-Roberts
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Jess is approaching 30, and single. Very single. And although she’s not been unsuccessful in having drunken, one-night encounters, now she’s on the lookout for a boyfriend.

So begins Sophie Osborne’s self-penned monologue about modern life as a single girl. And so we have the speed dating scene, the disgust with men’s online dating profiles scene, the crying at home in a onesie scene, and so on. The biggest problem with Osborne’s play is that it treads a very well-worn path. And while that’s not necessarily a problem of itself, it does require some inventiveness to ensure that the work remains interesting and with something original to say.

Osborne is engaging and likeable throughout, her delivery to the audience immediately having the warm intimacy of a conversation between friends. There’s a simplicity and lack of fuss to her writing that makes Osborne’s script feel like it’s collected from real life conversations. But of course, everyday conversations rarely make for the most scintillating theatrical dialogue, and that’s also the case here. Osborne’s good natured, warm delivery can’t really disguise that the script she has given herself goes for the easy observation, the obvious remark, the clichéd reaction.

A subplot about Jess’s role as a bridesmaid in her friend’s wedding underpins much of the monologue, culminating in a drunken karaoke session in the hen night and, later, an eye injury caused in the inevitable pile-up to catch the bouquet. But what appears to be an intriguing setup to a job interview at a domestic violence charity is thrown away when Jess makes up a story about abuse at the interview. “She wasn’t expecting that!” she laughs as she recounts the story. Well, no, dear, neither were we: we were hoping for something funnier.

Throughout there are glimmers of Osborne taking a more inventive approach. The tale of a drunken one-night stand after the hen party is more intriguing when being related as a series of apologies; a babysitting scene involves some fourth wall busting that is both clever and funny. But those are counterbalanced by so many occasions where the audience is told stuff that is patently obvious (including, at one point, Osborne telling us what she said in a phone conversation that we have just heard ourselves). It’s painfully clear that Osborne has expanded this play from a shorter dialogue, and hasn’t quite got either the material or enough of an original view to carry it off.

Runs until 4 June 2916 | Image: Helen Hates Peas Photography

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