Edinburgh Fringe 2010
The idea that "If you haven’t met someone by the time you graduate, you’re going to marry some idiot from you your work" is the starting point of this comedy/drama about romance, love and the depressing lack of it in a featureless office.
To sum it up on one level, My Romantic History is Ricky Gervais’ The Office, onstage, with less jokes. However, there is more to the play than that, and it goes some of the way towards exposing the reasons why people fall into depressing and loveless relationships in their mid-thirties.
Set in an office which could be anywhere, doing anything, the play centres around two characters, Amy and Tom. Tom is new to the office – he is sarcastic, bitter and not the most sympathetic of characters. He is real though, which is perhaps the saddest thing. The first strand of the play is narrated by Tom – we see his awkward attempts at conversation with his new colleagues, and we witness his drunken fumbling with Amy following post work drinks. He narrates his dissatisfaction with his life – and the story of his first love for Alison Hamilton is played out in all its teenage awkwardness and pain. The audience are party to a male perspective on a ‘relationship’ with Amy which Tom hasn’t courted and wants to end, without dumping her himself.
The second strand of the play is narrated by Amy – whose needling from work colleagues about her lack of a man aged 32, leads her into this drunken fumble with Tom, and her subsequent attempts at ‘giving him a go’.
In a somewhat predictable plot structure, we then see the events of the first part of the play, re-enacted from Amy’s point of view. What the truth is, we don’t know, as there are clearly things which Tom omitted which Amy sees fit to include in her story. In the first half of the play Tom portrays Amy as a somewhat desperate person, who he can’t seem to drive away, despite his best attempts. in Amy’s strand we learn that she doesn’t really like Tom that much either, and is just giving him a go with a view to ending it soon. We also learn that like Tom, Amy had a childhood first love which she ended and has recently been regretting.
The third section of the play is somewhat inevitable, with the odd interesting twist. There is shared narration from Amy and Tom, and both become slightly more likeable.
I am sure there are many people who will watch this play and see themselves reflected in the characters, or who will congratulate themselves that they are not in the position of having to resort to someone who will do, just because they’re not a ‘retard a rapist or a Rangers supporter.’ The piece was true, it was funny in parts and it was well acted. However, there was something missing which stopped it from being stand-out or unique. It didn’t seem to make any new comments or approach this common dilemma from a sufficiently different angle. Also by taking the setting of an office, it is faced with unwelcome comparisons to countless sitcoms and plays that have gone before it.