One of the outstanding Edinburgh shows this year was Miriam Battye’s utterly brilliant Strategic Love Play, which pits two bruised but hopeful people together, “hoping to engineer a relationship out of talking shit”.
With its cast unchanged, the play has transferred to the suitably intimate upstairs space at the Soho Theatre and from the audience on opening night it’s clearly seen as an ideal date night play. Which it is, in a way …
Adam and Jenny have come to a pub to meet, to connect, to … well, you know how this ends, don’t you? As anyone who’s tried it knows, modern love can be exhausting. There’s the photograph and the profile; and when these chime, there are the dates. Success requires a strategy and if a date goes wrong you can play it out again in your head, how it should have gone this time, how it will go next time, etc. Replay and refine until you achieve your goal.
However, Strategic Love Play is not just another story of Mars and Venus. For a start, it is simply impossible to pick sides thanks to Katie Posner’s smart direction and Rhys Jarman’s tricksy set. And while she is “difficult” and he is “sensitive”, Battye’s characters are otherwise nothing like the stereotypes one would expect to find in a two-hander about love. Adam and Jenny are real, brought to life in impressively nuanced performances from Archie Backhouse and Letty Thomas – both of them names to watch. We know people like this and just as IRL we can’t be certain how the date – or the play – will end.
Review by Louis Mazzini
So they’ve both swiped right. Now they’re meeting for the first time. Facing each other. As if that’s a normal thing to do. But she’s being uncomfortable, and he’s a total bore. The vibe is horrific and the banter is even worse. But something is keeping them in their seats. Something is making them stay. Welcome to your hot date.
Miriam Battye Writer
Katie Posner Director
Rhys Jarman Set & Costume Designer
Rajiv Pattani Lighting Designer
Beth Duke Sound Designer
Gabrielle Nimo Movement Director
Robbie Taylor Hunt Intimacy Director
Gillian Greer Dramaturg
Jacob Sparrow Casting Director
Josephine Tremelling Production Manager
Simon Perkins Company Stage Manager
Archie Backhouse Him
Letty Thomas Her
A Paines Plough, Soho Theatre and Belgrade Theatre production, in association with Landmark Theatres
STRATEGIC LOVE PLAY by Miriam Battye
Soho Theatre, London