Writer and Director: Henry Charnock
Henry Charnock’s ¿Rob or Rose?, performed at Camden Fringe, is a sparky two-hander about online dating. The eponymous friends sit on a park bench, each awaiting someone who promises to change their lives. The play is tightly structured in a series of witty Sliding Doors-type scenes in which other versions of the same possibility are played out.
Rose eagerly awaits her first face-to-face date with Charlie. She’s known as soon as they started messaging that he’s The One. Rob gets her to describe the trajectory of her virtual love affair to date, the premise being that these best friends have just started to confide in each other. A further bit of clunkiness is that somehow Rose and the mysterious Charlie have never Face-timed. So how, Rob presses, can she be sure the man she thinks she loves is who he says he is? Referencing their favourite show, MTV’s Catfish, might Charlie be a catfish? Has he created a fake online profile to lure the innocent Rose?
In the second scene, it is Rob who awaits his date Charlie – this time a woman (the play skips round the more obvious possibility that Rob could be gay). At this stage, we suspect that Rob and Rose are looking in the wrong direction: is the One sitting right beside them? The play teases us with the possibility that it’s a traditional meet cute. But ¿Rob or Rose? is more sophisticated than this: it’s only one of several pleasing plot twists that it explores.
The variations on a theme are wittily played out. Henry Charnock, the show’s writer and director, is first-rate as Rob, his face and body language registering a full range of subtle emotions. Neither Rob nor Rose is given much of a contextual background – perhaps too much to expect in a 60-minute show. But Eleanor Homer as Rose has the more challenging part because her character never questions old-fashioned societal norms. Her only fear is spinsterhood – the word is deliberately used as the ultimate put down.
In this way, ¿Rob or Rose? traps itself in sitcom territory. But its structure and dialogue suggest Charnock has potential as a dramatist.
Reviewed on 2 August 2022
The Camden Fringe runs from 2 -28 August 2022