The Vaults, London – until 25 August 2019
Ryan Craig’s funny new play examines the difficulty of dating and relationships in the 21st century.
Smart and relatable, Ryan Craig’s Games for Lovers effectively examines just how our attitudes towards dating and relationships have changed in the 21st century – in particular highlighting how the way we approach them showcases our vulnerabilities.
Games for Lovers follows four millennials as they attempt to navigate the world of love and dating through very different perspectives. But with the rules of dating and laid back approach to relationships very different in 2019 – can they all seek the happiness that they want?
While there is plenty of humour to be enjoyed throughout (keep an eye out for the scene in which Jenny role plays as a prostitute) there are occasional lines in Craig’s script that do make the audience wince – particularly in the final scene in which both men try desperately to get Martha to pick them and make her sound like property. Perhaps this is a subtle nod to the way in which some men’s attitudes towards women need to change but it doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the script.
But what the production does suggest is the way in which each character behaves throughout is due to their own insecurities. Whether it is Darren uses a number of ‘seduction techniques’ to get women to pay attention to him or Martha struggling to communicate how she feels about someone, it feels like we all know a Darren, Martha Logan or Jenny and always comes across as relatable.
The play is heartfelt and genuine throughout and Anthony Banks ensures that the anguish and difficulty of finding the ‘one’ is always at the forefront of the audience’s mind – it doesn’t matter about the dating apps it is actual human contact that people want to combat the loneliness. But everything in the play feels a little bit straightforward and becomes slightly predictable in places – particularly when it is clear that Logan’s feelings towards Martha are changing.
Throughout the production, the cast is on top form providing plenty of energy and all have a great chemistry together. In particular, Evanna Lynch as Martha is wonderfully endearing and vulnerable but also transforms the character into a confident personality – delivering her final line to Darren and Logan with great gusto that makes you want to cheer. She also has a lovely chemistry with Billy Postlethwaite as Darren – with their more sincere conversations proving to be real highlights. Postlethwaite’s performance is delightfully funny – even if at times his character’s attitude is a little wince-worthy he remains likeable, capturing his insecurities well.
Tessie Orange-Turner as Jenny offers a strong performance. Her character’s catty remarks are beautifully timed and sharply delivered. Calum Callaghan as Logan offers a grounded and believable performances as he struggles to deal with Martha and Darren’s increasing closeness.
Games for Lovers is a fun and playful examination about the complications of love and is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face – despite its flaws.
By Emma Clarendon
Games for Lovers will continue to play at The Vaults until the 25th August.