Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Rob Drummond (creator of Bullet Catch and Quiz Show) combines a live on-stage first date with evolutionary theory and scientific research in an experimental edfringe celebration of love.
Entering the theatre, one might believe they’ve gone to see the recording of a cringeworthy chat show about love instead of a play. Indeed, the premise is similar to one that might be thought up by a chat show: two audience members are chosen, from amongst those who are single, looking for love, and comfortable getting up on stage, to go on a first date live on stage in front of an audience. This illusion is maintained when Rob Drummond (playwright and performer) enters, accompanied by his own chat-show style video opening.
In Fidelity is, however, rather more than a cringeworthy chat show – and not really cringeworthy at all (though this might, of course, depend on your personal sensibilities). The first date between audience members takes something of a backseat to Drummond’s material, which includes details about his own marriage and nerve-wracking first date with his now-wife, a bit of neuroscience (which bits of the brain light up in response to which stimuli), imagined conversations between Charles and Emma Darwin, the application of Darwinian theories of evolution to love and fidelity, and some of his own research process laid bare (namely signing up for a Match.com account and flirting with temptation).
It’s a brave move to rely on audiences to make your show work. On this occasion, only one audience member willing to go on a date can be found at first, though after some persuasion, another two potential candidates come forwards. The candidates answer some questions, while Drummond determines the best match of the three. The chosen couple are then invited to sit and have some drinks. The audience are asked for some suggestions as to good first date questions to get to know one another. This particular pairing may not be overflowing with chemistry, but their conversations throughout the show are refreshingly honest and range over a wide range of subjects from tax havens to Brexit to romantic histories.
It would be interesting to know if the couple has ever been a same-sex one. The format is open to the idea, but on this occasion there were no takers. The show is less friendly towards asexuality (statistically speaking, at least one person in every audience); the scientific formula for love Drummond gives has sexual attraction as its first ingredient, and no attempt is made to reach out to those who do not fit the mould of the Darwinian theories he draws on (and, indeed, one wonders where homosexuality fits into evolutionary theories about love and attraction being designed for the creation and survival of offspring), or to separate love from lust, or sexual from romantic attraction.
In Fidelity is a fascinating (if limited) look at love, cheating, and relationships, all the more so for the unpredictable elements that come from the audience. The final note is a celebration of love and the ideas about cheating are left intriguingly ambiguous.