Writer: Derek Murphy
Directors: Sarah Maria Lafferty and Brian Gallagher
This is a small show with a big heart. Running at a tight and engrossing 50 minutes, The Bad Daters is geared precisely for the Fringe and delivers delightfully well. There’s no set, so the story begins as a park bench skit without the bench.
All the focus is on the characters, Wendy and Liam, played superbly by Sarah Maria Lafferty and Brian Gallagher. Extracted and developed from Derek Murphy’s earlier play The Love Parts, these jaded romantic misfits start a relationship so tentative it’s already a disaster.
Although Wendy and Liam have met online, the play’s not really about the process of dating. It’s about human connection and the lack of it, the sense of near impossibility in finding love that people damaged by previous relationships can feel. And both Wendy and Liam are profoundly damaged.
She’s become mouthy, cynical and defensive, while he strives to ‘make an effort’, despite his own insecurities and the unpromising situation. The writing is sharp and constantly surprising, the Irish vernacular adding its own special spice.
Lafferty is unsparing with Wendy’s outrageously inconsiderate jibes, while Gallagher’s understated, sardonic responses as Liam compound the humour. Yet the piece doesn’t feel as if it’s played for laughs. The relentless exploration of these idiosyncratic characters also delivers pathos and charm.
Of course, we’re in classic rom-com territory here, so there’s not much to hold back in terms of spoilers, other than to say that the drama ends at exactly the right moment.
Runs until 26 August 2023