I Heart IKEA[author-post-rating] (1/5 Stars)

I Heart IKEA is a two-piece comedy from Illyria Arts which bemoans the difficulty of being original by composing a romantic comedy entirely from rehashed quotes and clichés. Unfortunately, it seems that perhaps suffering from the dearth of innovation delimited by its own novelty premise, means the show lacks enthusiasm, humour and is genuinely difficult to sit through.

The dialogue is essentially a collage, finding appropriate quotes and arranging them into an overall story, but it is too clunky, messy and strained to ever work. As a result, the play is simply not enjoyable. It often resembles those Volkswagen “think differently about film” cinema-adverts where mundane, awkward scenes play out with a few quotes from famous films rammed in.

The plot itself consists of a couple acting out every clichéd scenario in every clichéd rom-com accompanied by popular quotes, as though they are being read from an IKEA instruction manual. Over the course of an hour, it just becomes annoying.

With that in mind, it is an astounding feat that both actors somehow remembered their lines. Learning a script consisting of phrases that were originally hammered into one’s long-term memory years ago, and which have been losing semantic weight each time one’s heard them ever since, must require a total mental reshuffle.

As impressive as this is, unfortunately it doesn’t make the show any easier to watch. The set design is lacklustre, consisting of piles of boxes and IKEA lamps which are turned on and off as a lazy atmospheric device. The acting feels half-hearted, perhaps hampered by the small crowd and hostile venue. Zoo Southside’s Cabaret Room has the stage squashed into the corner and its feeble size denies the prospect of ever playing to more than 15 people at a time. Furthermore, laughs from the audience are scarce and when they do occur, they are usually triggered by someone’s favourite quote appearing somewhere amongst the wreckage.

It is a shame because the fundamental idea of the show has potential. The concept of the romantic instruction manual especially begs to be explored in more depth. Our willingness to subscribe to concepts of love or romance that we learn from practises depicted in Hollywood films, from the friend-zone to happy endings, is something this show almost addresses, but ends up simply dodging.

At the Fringe, where competition for audiences is tough, a show like this is not a good investment. Like IKEA furniture, it is cheap and wears quickly.

I Heart IKEA is playing until 14 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.