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Fringe Online 2021

Low Down

Adventurous is directed by Khadifa Wong, with Jessie McKenzie’s designs for green screen and interiors, where Matt Eaton matches the sound envelope for circumstances. Featuring  Sara Crowe, author Ian Hallard and Katherine Jakeways. Till March 28th.


State of the lockdown? Ian Hallard’s Adventurous starts as a zoom play about dating on zoom, set specifically in weekly zooms starting on the second nurse clap of April 2nd 2020, which after forty minutes free zoom history teacher Richard mustn’t miss!

It’s a seventy-minute one-act play though with cutaways of revelation you’ll quietly marvel at, absolutely in character with what we’ve all lived through.

The title’s the adjective adopted by Sara Crowe’s Ros to describe herself in one word by the dating agency; it hardly seems to fit her. Richard, taken by author Hallard, plays back her soubriquet with the straightest of bats. We follow these shy-to-middling new zoomers through lockdown and eat-out-to-help-out then back on zoom through surprises and over-sharings. Crowe’s shy assertion gazes blue-eyed at Hallard’s teacher-in-headlights in an excruciating chintz of gallantry.

We’re etched Ros’s life as carer for ‘horrible’ disabled sister Madeleine, now dead, and ‘skirmishes with the DWP’. Each matches the wrong celeb from a name, perfectly circumscribing their worlds: no Chris Evans the actor, not DJ, says Richard. And Arlene Forster’s from Strictly, not Richard’s assumption of the Northern Ireland leader says Ros, Cissinghurst-admiring but living through TV. Each slippage inscribes their spheres; it’s delicate, paisley-patterned, for now.

Richard, married 18 years, separated one boasts two daughters and a son. That’ll count. Ros’s sibling fury jumps out of her predictive saintly role. Madeleine was happy to outlive her exact contemporary, Diana. ‘Does all sound a bit Baby Jane’ says Richard. ‘Rod Stewart?’ ‘Yes’ says Richard gallantly. Ros’s encyclopaedic knowledge of popular culture uneasily bumps into an opinion (Cissinghurst again) that lesbians make good gardeners.

Ros doesn’t like the PM though, possessing sound instincts over who’s responsible for what. Ultimately we find her more alert, readier to learn, especially after a drink in a distanced bar. Hallard’s good at drawing out distinctions between two put-upon, repressed people already missing out on middle-age having never been young.

There’s a vivid appearance by the excellent writer/actor Katherine Jakeways, bristling with malapropisms. It’s not quite how you’d expect it either. Emblematically Ros has muted herself at the start of the play. But it’s Ros whose voice we cheer at.

Hallard doesn’t only use 2020 as an analogue for a certain shy encounter, bashfulness reinforced by lockdown and a few contemporary zoom jokes. He recruits other uses of zoom, and one steep learning curve. As mainly zoom theatre it’s a masterclass in zoom repertoire too.

Adventurous is directed by Khadifa Wong, with Jessie McKenzie’s neat designs for green screen and dingy or otherwise interiors as well as a sudden lurch into freedom, where Matt Eaton matches the right sound envelope for circumstances.

Jermyn Street continue to push new genres, in this case an ideally-judged mixed one. This is a play gently subverting all expectations: beautifully crafted, memorably witty, with believable characters you invest in. And Hallard has as it were zoomed up the scale as master of a new medium. Feeling Adventurous? You should.