Sunsets – Seven Dials Playhouse, London

Reviewer: John Cutler

Writer: Georgie Grier

Director: Grace O’Keefe

A viral hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, Georgie Grier’s uneven but mostly enjoyable one-woman show about love, self-deception, and the mechanics of romcom plotting gets an outing at London’s Seven Dials Playhouse.

Denver (Georgie Grier stars as well as writes) grows up watching endless reruns of Sleepless In Seattle, The Wedding Planner and Notting Hill with mum Sally, dad Harry, and sister Peach in the back of her grandparent’s food truck. Dad’s habitual response to every plot twist is “Well, I didn’t see that coming”, which is odd because romantic comedies are just about the most formulaic movie genre there is.

Aside from an unspoken crush on her teenage neighbour Jack, who naturally looks like John Travolta’s character in Grease, the young Denver prefers the reliable certainties of fiction to real-life romance. “Untainted and perfect is better than dirty reality”, she says.

Fast forward a few years and Denver works as a copywriter in a marketing agency, neatly reminding us that female romcom characters are almost always writers. Who should pitch up at work, but Jack. Assigned to an account marketing upmarket buses, Denver contrives to start a series of podcasts charting the duo’s evolving relationship as if it were the plot of a Hollywood chick-flick.

We are the audience for the live recording of the final podcast where Denver gets to recap the previous episodes and reveal who will share her romantic sunset. Will it be Jack, her best friend Cece, the “love that was there all along”, or will she end up alone?

Grier, who catches the annoyingly chirpy tone of podcast presenters spot on, makes a decent point about the way love often makes us see the things we want to while ignoring the rest. Real life rarely matches the neat and fantastical narrative structures beloved by romcom authors, or the performative perfection of Instagram influencers and Tik-Tok celebrities. A slow reveal uncovers some unexpected truths about mum and dad’s difficult marriage and the darkness that lies beneath Denver’s exuberant façade.

Grier lets her script meander off course periodically and the comedy mostly falls flat. But as Denver unwittingly reveals the things she left out from previous episodes her pain is both affecting and convincing.

Without giving much away it is fair to say the melodramatic twist-in-the-tail ending is more WTF than happily-ever-after. Bleak, baffling, and antithetical to a traditional romcom it almost feels like the show’s last five minutes is drawn from an entirely different play. As Denver’s dad might say, you most definitely won’t see it coming.

Runs until 30 September 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Pretty woman it ain’t.

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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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