Carbon Dating

Ron Elisha
OutFox Productions
Brockley Jack Theatre, London

Carbon Dating

OutFox Productions was formed in late 2011, and this is their second production, again at the Brockley Jack in south-east London.

Danny Boyle has recently been urging people to support their local theatres rather than get sucked into long-running controversies whipped up by the media and the Brockley Jack and OutFox are certainly a combination worthy of this support.

The play, by Australian playwright, author, journalist and GP Ron Elisha, is a kind of modern-day La Ronde in form, showing different combinations of couples on their first dates. The dialogue is funny, witty and always interesting.

It's set in a restaurant with three round tables. An ever-present waiter in the background appears in a variety of attitudes and facial expressions, from nosy, to in despair, to bored, to asleep in a wide-brimmed Mexican hat. He polishes glasses, sweeps the floor, collects items from tables and generally provides an interesting, mainly non-speaking alternative to the main action. (I couldn't help thinking of the way Richard Burton lurked in the background in an early production of The Lady's Not For Burning, listening in to a conversation between two other characters.)

In each couple there's usually one who sabotages the encounter in some way, so that you soon come to realise why they're still single. One guy feels uncomfortable about the unusually high ceiling, another talks about Nicole Kidman films all the time, another is obsessed with money and how much each person earns (which at one point leads to a fight outside).

It's usually the men who have the most noticeable quirks (no comment!), though there is one very demanding woman with strict dietary requirements (one wonders why she even bothers going out to restaurants, but no doubt she enjoys tormenting the serving staff), and another one with a nervous tic.

On the way in to the theatre, the audience is offered a choice of labels to indicate their relationship status—red for not available, yellow for might be available, and green for definitely available. This gives rise to a bit of banter from the waiter before the play begins. I almost felt there was more potential for interaction here, but on a cold Thursday night it was nice to sit back for an hour and a half, without the disruption of an interval, and just enjoy the show.

The colour coding is repeated on the set, with large red, orange and green circles painted on the black floor (set design, as in the previous production, by Gina Rose Lee). On the wall are listed some comic menu Specials, for example "Boy toy looking to be played with $28.00" and "Guaranteed more fun than your ex $32.00".

OutFox has again done well with its choice of cast: 12 actors playing 13 roles, many of them recently out of drama school, clearly totally committed to their craft, and giving strong, convincing performances under the direction of John Fricker. There is the added task for most of them to speak with an Australian accent, which was also well done—an Australian actress in the cast, Caroline George, was dialect coach.

So, congratulations to OutFox who have scored another hit!.

Reviewer: Gill Stoker

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