Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left.
That was me about a month ago, going through the Fringe website in hope of finding a hidden gem. I then came across this show by Loquitur Theatre called Lobster, and when you read a description spotlighting ‘dreadful dates’ and ‘exciting encounters’, it’s pretty much a perfect pitch. Incorporating multimedia technologies, the piece follows the bubbly Polly as her online dating spree racks up pick-up lines and dates aplenty on her quest to find love. Intertwined between these are short, non-fictional explorations into alarming relationship issues. Whilst the show’s direction comes from Loquitur co-founder Lou-Lou Mason, it’s solely her counterpart, Gemma Harvey, that takes both the performing and writing plaudits.
“You’d do well to sniff out a better Fringe performance from an actor”
By far the brightest shining light in this production is the performance of Harvey herself who’s outstanding. For me, the recognisable parallel to Polly would be a more mainstream Bridget Jones, and actually, the acting quality would be just as high if it was the Oscar-winning Renée Zellweger sexting and swiping in front of you. Harvey is immensely convincing, tremendously eloquent and performs the piece’s physical direction with the utmost precision; you’d do well to sniff out a better Fringe performance from an actor.
Another of the piece’s attractive characteristics is the side-splitting, slightly middle-aged humour that trickles right through the script. The show is also diligent dramaturgically, as epitomised by a structure that only amalgamates the sombre issues (those which send Polly spiralling downwards) once the audience has warmed to her. However, some of these topics lack germaneness to the production’s online dating premise and instead are just relevant to relationships generally.
The troubles unfortunately don’t stop there for Loquitur, particularly in terms of director Mason’s contributions. At times, her placement of Polly is so sloppy that the views of some spectators become obscured to the extent that Polly’s projected phone chat threads are impossible to read. I additionally question the necessity for most of the props used and even the manner of their utilisation. For example, I hadn’t realised National Geographic magazines include lustreless, white pages with text covered in fluorescent yellow highlighter.
Where Mason is deserving of praise, nevertheless, is for her part in the show’s lighting design, which creates the most dazzling of shadows behind Polly. Plus she obviously deserves applause for Harvey being as exceptional as she is. It’s a shame that other aspects of the performance let Harvey down given the superbness of her acting. In spite of this, I still believe I’ve found the gem of a show I’ve been longing to find at this year’s Fringe. It’s also fantastic to have come across a gem of an actor in the aptly named Gemma Harvey.
Lobster ran at Underbelly Bristo Square – Buttercup until 26th August.