Due to rehearsals, I am seeing only a handful of the fourth year drama student shows so that I actually have time to review them. The first of these is by 'Man Corner'; a duo consisting of students Oliver Tatt and Alex Doble. Their show, based on those classic themes of love and gender differences, is refreshingly not blokey, as the company name might lead you to believe.
The style of the show (only 30 minutes long) was a mixture of songs, skits, stories, and soul-baring. The show actually starts with them singing a medley of love songs; choices which are as varied as a witty acoustic version of 'Don't You Want Me', 'A New England and 'Hey There Delilah', plus some traditional folk songs. The songs worked really well as a sort of commentary on how love is portrayed in popular culture; our sort of reference points for romantic ideals. They were entertaining but clearly more thought had gone into them. For me, this was a good grounding point for the show as any show about love is on very dangerous ground. I think there are very few writers that have written well on the subject, so Man Corner had given themselves a tough task. Why I think the show works is that it doesn't come to any conclusions about love and it doesn't rely on the old gender cliches.
There's an anecdote the two actors tell referring to the title, in which they meet a beautiful woman in an art gallery. There was an interesting mix of styles in how they delivered their sections of the tale. Tatt's style was confessional whereas Doble's style was very lyrical. Surprisingly the mix actually worked quite well; the rhetorical lyrical aspects reflecting how people self-dramatise their lives and relationships- particularly creative people. I'm not sure whether the anecdote is fictional or not but the setting of the art gallery and the search for a beautiful painting that the character has had on their minds feeds really nicely into the poetic way in which the event is viewed.
Any show about love is bound to have some cliches but they're dealt with quite humorously here, such as Tatt talking to a woman and Doble voicing his internal, rather more basic feelings. It was nice to see the dynamic between the two actors; something they play on later when one interrogates the other on big questions about love. Of course it's a play and you can never tell how much of a persona is true but I think the interrogation worked best in the moments when they genuinely did seem to be confessing. There was one scene about insecurities which was actually quite incisive and an interesting look at how people all have some similar insecurities, even if it's more culturally acceptable for a woman to state them.
The show's brevity worked in its favour; I love vulnerable confessional theatre but it means more when it's restrained slightly. You can be meditative without being ponderous and insightful without lecturing the audience and the show is good evidence of this. By creating a show that is essentially a personal scrapbook on love, Man Corner give a much more interesting exploration of love and its obstacles, making the personal moments really stand out against the abstract material.