My Romantic History is something different. Well, it’s a rom-com which isn’t different, but it is different to see a story told this purely onstage.
We have Tom (David McCusker) and Amy (Sarah Lawrie), and the story of how they met and that’s all there is to it in D.C. Jackson’s script. Jackson is honest with the audience and that’s what makes the play different; there isn’t any filtering through subtext or pretence of addressing grandiose themes. Jackson presents life and narrates it hilariously – it’s funny because it’s true.
We get the same series of events from two different perspectives, and their first love stories lead us to the conclusion that nothing measures up to that first love in simplicity and naivety. Tom and Amy are work colleagues who have a one night stand that leads to all sorts of trouble just because they couldn’t be honest with one another from the beginning. Tom spends a third of the play trying to break up with Amy in the most useless way possible, and a mixture of his brutal honesty and absolute stupidity make him an improbably endearing character. The monologues are engaging because Jackson’s writing is relevant: his characters say everything that we’re thinking but could never actually say, so we become confidantes. Amy is 33 and just desperately doesn’t want to be alone. McCusker has better comic timing than Lawrie, but she’s not wanting in energy. Lawrie fills in the other characters convincingly, without overacting them which would risk pushing what’s currently a fun production over the edge into the doomed depths of a modern day farce.
The multi-roling and short, sharp scene changes are handled expertly so that what could have been a dizzying race through two people’s life stories is a concise compression of the moments which matter. The to-ing and fro-ing of chairs and boxes for a minimalistic set can get a little irksome, but they manage to do a lot with the little they’ve got. The lighting, too, is a little limited so that switching between lights as we move from scene to scene mean that occasionally one side of the stage is too dark. The technical elements are all minor problems of logistics; they’re not used to add layers to the performance.
There’s something filmic about the truthfulness of My Romantic History. Sure they’re no Hugh Grant or Jennifer Aniston, but the characters are quirky and that makes us care. It’s like a form of therapy: watching all the mistakes we’ve made but being able to laugh at them because they’re happening to something else. The familiarity of it all makes each audience member feel like they’re really watching their own romantic history. Thoroughly enjoyable and fresh writing.
My Romantic History is playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre again on 11 February. For more information and tickets, see www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk.