Tuesday 10 September 2019

The Subtle Art Of Online Dating - Cabaret Review

What: The Subtle Art of Online Dating
When: 9 - 15 September 2019
Where: Upstairs, The Butterfly Club
Written by: Katie O'Connor
Directed by: Kate Tomkins
Performed by: Nerida Hannah, Katie O'Connor, Maddie Roberts and Bonnie Ryan-Rowe
Bonnie Ryan-Rowe, Katie O'Connor, Nerida Hannah and Maddie Roberts
Because we just can't get enough of it, this year's Fringe Festival brings us another painful yet funny stab at the vagaries and absurdities of romance by app in O'Connors new show. The Subtle Art Of Online Dating is playing upstairs at The Butterfly Club this week.

The topic is not new, but it appears to be endlessly fascinating. Hasn't dating always been a key source of hilarity throughout history? In the tradition of shows such as Ghosted, Tinder Tales and Fuckboys: The Musical, The Subtle Art Of Online Dating pokes fun of and thrusts swords into our current obsession with trying to find love through pure strangers rather than risk getting to know the people around us.

I have to say I don't think The Subtle Art of Online Dating brings much in the form of original material or new perspectives. What it does do, however, is highlight the powerful performance skills of the cast. This team of theatre makers are cohorts from Federation University and all of them demonstrate strong technical skills as actors and also demonstrate Tomkins' skill with use of space - particularly in such a small venue. I rarely enjoy shows which use the auditorium aisle, but this is possibly the first time I have thought it to be done well.

The Subtle Art of Online Dating has an in-yer-face quality which seems to be the rage at the moment in Melbourne, but I wonder if that is actually the great weakness of the work. The four actors come out singing a song (flatly...) about being bitches. It is loud and aggressive and comes from the idea of reclaiming insult words. I personally do not think this is the way to regain respect or dignity - or language - but it is one of those things people do the wrong way for all the right reasons I guess.

A little more softness and vulnerability would make this a much more powerful piece because, despite it's claims to the contrary, The Subtle Art of Online Dating is not a comedy. It is a very sad tale of pain and confusion. In order to amp up the comic, the team have had to resort to obnoxiousness and braggadocia which becomes very confronting. Because of this, I found myself caring very little despite the excellent stage craft on display.

The one exception for me was Hannah's portrayal of the lonely, chocolate addicted young woman who finds happiness in glitter adorned appliances... Hannah also plays the piano which allows the team to segue into song and dance for that real cabaret vibe. I take her warnings about Hinge very seriously too!

The Subtle Art of Online Dating is fun, and a good way to round off a night of show going at The Butterfly Club. It is also informative. I had no idea there were so many dating apps on the market now!

2.5 Stars

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