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I’ll be your baby tonight..? at the Etcetera Theatre | Review

'I'll be your baby tonight'- Photo credit Matthew Kaltenborn.
‘I’ll be your baby tonight…?’- Photo credit Matthew Kaltenborn.

Being unashamedly too busy for a love life, there’s little I can personally relate to in I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight…? It’s a show about what a ‘dream’ date would be like. I suppose the possibilities for a dream date are almost limitless, dependent on what tickles the fancies of the people on a date.

Imagine, for instance, two people who, for the sake of argument, enjoy rollercoaster rides. For me, they make me feel uncomfortable to say the least, they are often located in theme parks for which the admission prices are frankly extortionate, and one spends a disproportionate amount of time queuing for an experience that lasts a couple of minutes. But the queues are almost always there, so there must be some people who like that sort of thing.

The task for Jenny (Holly Delefortrie) is to guide the audience, who collectively assume the role of her ‘date’, through what constitutes a good date, in her mind: lists are quickly drawn up, though Jenny is dyslexic so the spelling is like that of an angry man ranting on social media – we’re an unassuming audience, however, so it’s not an issue. The show claims to be ‘interactive’, and it lives up to such expectations: sit in the front row at your own risk.

Jenny suffers from anxiety in novel situations, which in this context means she’s fretting because she’s about to go on a first date with someone. The rapport with the audience is very good throughout – some inherently British reticence is eventually broken down through what can only be described as a charm offensive. The audience is regularly asked to make contributions – to answer questions such as “What do you notice when meeting someone for the first time?”. At the performance I attended, someone replied with “thighs” – make of that what you will.

It works, even with a matinee crowd, some of whom (well, perhaps just me then) were battling through a post-lunch slump. If some of the links and connections Jenny tried to make with what people were saying seemed desperate and contrived, this was all part of the character’s desire to seem as affable and agreeable as possible. But is she trying too hard? The conversation, if that’s what it is, flits from topic to topic, which in almost any other show would be aggravating to say the least. Here, it’s again indicative of Jenny’s state of mind, as she tries to keep the conversation friendly and flowing.

The awkwardness of the situation, though, becomes increasingly palpable, perhaps more so in the second date than the first. There’s also a sense that the audience has a genuine part to play in steering the course of the narrative as Jenny feeds off the suggestions and replies from various people. The production also uses technology well, allowing the audience to see text messages from Jenny during the show – and some sort of pre-show video presentation (which I can’t say anything about because I was delayed on the Tube getting to the theatre, so I was rather flustered and don’t recall what happened before the lights went down for the show proper).

It’s not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but it is a lot of fun, and it’s clear that no two performances of this production are going to be the same. Rightly, the show considers what, deep down, is important in the grand scheme of things, whilst also acknowledging that dating is very much an art and not a science. Overall, this experience was eccentric, experimental, enthusiastic and enjoyable.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Lovestruck? Love Lost? Or just feeling a bit romantically indifferent…?
Meet Jenny, romantically confused, accidental serial monogamist and untimed romantic fantasist as she takes you on her dream date at this year Camden Fringe Festival!
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight…? is a playful, interactive dating experience where audience and performer navigate their way around the world of dating and relationships through a series of semi-improvised, interactive games.
A combination of clowning, confessional storytelling and interactive ‘gameplay’ that journeys through the highs and lows of finding love in 2019. A celebration of the messier side of human nature: cock-ups, vulnerability and all.

Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th August
ETCETERA THEATRE
265 Camden High Street
Running time: 1 hour

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