If you’re enjoying our content, then please consider becoming a patreon with every penny going towards keeping AYT going and paying our very talented team of young creatives. For more information, visit: https://www.patreon.com/ayoungertheatre
Written and directed by Ian Dixon Potter, Love in the Time of Corona offers what is sure to be the next ‘marmite’ of the theatre world: a pandemic-set love story. For some, this timely reflection of contemporary events will be illuminative and essential; for others, it will a topic too current to enjoy. Luckily, Dixon Potter hasn’t written a love story – he’s written a manifesto.
Centered around latent lothario Jake (Ivan Comisso), the play chronicles his locked-down love affair with Laura, whom he (and the audience) never meets in person. As he chats with this online stranger to “keep his pulling skills sharp”, he finds himself changing. Indeed, as their conversation progresses, his braggadocio soon subsides — is he really the toxic stud he thought he was? Or is there someone better beneath the philandering surface?
Really, Love in the Time of Corona is a 35-minute thought experiment that asks the question, ‘what will it take for a misogynist to change their ways?’ The answer, apparently, is a pandemic and actually talking to a woman. Although Jake appears almost like a parody at first (“any relationship that lasts longer than a few hours really isn’t my style”), he soon evolves after Covid forces him to stay at home and interact with a woman for longer than a day or so.
Is there something to be said about how the audience never actually meets Laura? Perhaps. She does appear to be a theatrical ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’, existing solely so that she can help Jake can grow up and learn the error of his toxic ways (“Lauren actually got me to talk with my mates!”). But Love in the Time of Corona manages to avoid the pitfalls of this one-note approach, not placing the focus on the “good girl saves bad guy” themes, but on the wider failings of a gendered society.
Indeed, towards the end of his arc, Jake begins to recognise how his emotional and sexual immaturity stems from how his community taught him to be an unfeeling machine; he wanted to be “unflappable”, like his TV heroes. Further touching on issues like homophobia and the lack of safeguarding given to male mental health, the play is revealed to be less of a love story and more of a mission statement on how toxic masculinity occurs. If you can sit through Jake being an utter arse for the first 25 or so minutes (“I say anything to get what I want”), it’s a rather rewarding resolution.
Rewarding, if a little basic. Whether purposefully or through necessity, Love in the Time of Corona takes a stripped-back approach to it’s storytelling, being delivered solely through a series of monologues (the only real stylistic ‘shake-up’ is Jake’s outfit changing scene to scene). Of course, this isn’t a reason to disregard the production, but it does put further impetus on performer Ivan Comisso to carry the play, which he mostly manages. With his Italian lilt adding a European flair to his delivery, Comisso does well to journey Jake from cocky hedonist to earnest monogamist, but even he sometimes teeters under the weight of the script’s slower moments.
With some tighter pacing and more stylistic shadings, Love in the Time of Corona could be a cut above the rest. For now, though? It’s a very solid if slightly underwhelming experience, but one that should definitely be considered.
Love in the Time of Corona is now available online – watch the full piece on YouTube.