Review: Binaural Dinner Date, Rich Mix

Somewhere inside ZU-UK’s Binaural Dinner Date, there is a very interesting idea. Written and directed by Persis Jadé Maravala, this is an exploration of the nature of human interactions – the extent to which they are performed or learned, and the ways in which we can choose to accept this or to break away from it – could be intriguing.

With that said, it’s certainly also a lot to convey. And so, perhaps it’s inevitable that this show (performance? encounter?) falls somewhat short of its own potential. The concept itself is interactive and sounds innovative on paper: verbal cues conveyed over headphones, orchestrates the movements and words of the participants, as well as providing further insight into and rumination upon the concept of ‘dating’.

However, this betrays itself in one particular way. Despite its suggestions that it wants to lead us to share a deeper level of interactions with one another, encouraging difficult topics of conversation and attempting to lead us to disclose relatively personal information to one another, this piece relies very heavily on literally feeding lines to both participants. How is it possible for any genuine level of connection to form when, for significant chunks of time, neither person is really playing themselves? Of course, this could easily be construed as an attempt to tap into something else: many if not all interactions in real life are ‘performed’ to some extent, and so perhaps the addition of externally determined wording just throws some light on this. In practice, however, it just feels inexplicable and very, very difficult to take seriously.

I’d like to add that none of the fault lies with the performers (cast includes Persis Jadé Maravala, Will Dickie, Hayley Hill and Fabiola Santana). Their job of keeping the production running and mediating the experience looks challenging, and they do an admirable job of making everything go smoothly.

In terms of the setting, I am not entirely convinced by the choice to place it in a room which also contains several people who are completely unrelated to Binaural Dinner Date. Letting the world of the performance cross paths with the real world doesn’t work so well when it only serves to remind us that all of this is artificial, especially when one of the piece’s final moments seems to rely on making us believe that these two worlds are one and the same.

To me, this feels like a very classic case of the execution betraying the idea. Its intentions often feel blurred or difficult to pin down, with its core concept of allowing for real connection undermined by the frequent disruption of these interactions. For the time being, this piece doesn’t feel quite sure what it wants to be, and that makes it challenging to really draw people in.

Binaural Dinner Date is playing Rich Mix until 2 March 2019. For more information and tickets, see the Rich Mix website.