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Anything With A Pulse at Park Theatre

Anything with a Pulse written and directed by Eliana Ostro is a two-hander about 20-somethings trying to find meaning and love in a world of Tinder and online dating. I was surprised that the director thought that blasting their audience for ten minutes prior to curtain up with impossibly loud dance music was in any way helpful or entertaining. It was annoying and gave me a terrible headache from which I didn’t recover. This was made even worse by the Park’s policy of no readmittance. So there was literally no exit. If this was an attempt to pay homage to Sartre’s classic No Exit then they succeeded.

Anything with a Pulse - Annie Davison & Rufus Love
Anything with a Pulse – Annie Davison & Rufus Love

The play to my mind mixed the horror of dating on the dance floor (remember all those humiliating walks over to a girl to ask for a dance only to be refused and then making the walk back again to your merciless mates) with the Gen Z’s online dating, swiping to the right ordeal.

Annie Davidson and Rufus Love are both very talented and engaging actors who perform their multiple roles with great aplomb. The best scene in the play is a very funny recreation of the ‘where did it go?’ moment from There’s Something About Mary.

However, the two main characters switch to so many other characters that I lost track of who was who and what was what. It’s way too confusing. I realise that this churn of potential partners is a metaphor. Fast quick fleeting relationships are a sign of the chaos and bewildering pace of Gen Z dating rituals. Even so, there were just too many partners for my poor brain to keep up with. I felt that Elaina Ostro set up a cliche of straw men in the Geordie boys who are supposed to be the central character’s peer group. This was implausible for two reasons. First, someone doing a master’s degree in business administration would hardly be hanging with these guys. Second, the crass 70s sexist language they use is not believable. It’s a cheap shot and an easy target that doesn’t add to the play’s depth or argument.

Where the play works well and where I think Eliana ought to focus her considerable insight is on the impossibility of getting inside the mind of another human being. Both protagonists are surmising. They are greasing what the other thinks. So inevitably the scope for misunderstanding, miscommunication and getting it totally wrong is very high. It is on this very fertile ground that the play works and it is these aspects that ought to be explored with more thought, analysis and insight. As it stands it’s too shouty, too clichéd and far too loud.

3 Star Review

Review by John O’Brien

Exploring the highs, lows and insecurities of two individuals in their early 20s, Anything with a Pulse is a comic story of modern-day dating. In this fast-paced performance, two actors transition between a vast array of different characters, accents and physicalities to build the narrative around the two main love interests who meet on the dance floor, slipping between first and third-person dialogue directed at the audience. Anything with a Pulse featured in Park Theatre’s Pick of the Fringe season in 2019, after a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that summer.

Spotting each other from across the dance floor, they hit it off. Their story should be simple enough. But in a world where we hide behind games and personas, it doesn’t always play out like that. He tries to fit in with his macho group of friends and she is torn between feeling comfortable with the unexciting ‘nice guy’, or facing the games and pretenses of modern dating.

Company information
Written and directed by Eliana OstroAssistant Director Tara Ahmed
Casting director Tara Ahmed Set design by Suzanne Emerson
Lighting design by Laurel MarksSound design by Temi Olugbenga

Cast: Annie Davison & Rufus Love

Listings information
Park90, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP
14 Nov – 26 Nov 2022

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  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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