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Strategic Love Play at Soho Theatre | Review

A man and a woman meet in a pub for their very first date. She’s uncomfortable and challenging right from the outset, and he’s kind of a bore. It’s an awkward vibe – and if you’ve been on a first date with someone you hardly know, you know exactly what that’s like. This is where Miriam Battye’s Strategic Love Play begins its unrelenting course. Modern dating is a subject that horrifies and fascinates in equal measure – but this play is also about so much more. After all, contained within the first date is everything else we must grapple with as flawed human beings in search of connection: our own insecurities, desires, expectations, disappointments, and the yearning. All this, while at the same time, we must put on our best show of seeing the entire situation as entirely disposable, entirely trivial. To say it’s a minefield is clearly an ironic understatement.

Letty Thomas and Archie Backhouse - Pamela Raithe Photography.
Letty Thomas and Archie Backhouse – Pamela Raithe Photography.

I go to Paines Plough expecting nothing but the best in new writing, and I was not disappointed. Miriam Battye’s Strategic Love Play is acid wit and heart-wrenching perception in equal measure. If you’re a person who has ever fallen out of love, or yearned for love, if you’ve ever wondered why you weren’t chosen, or what it’s going to take – what might need to be sacrificed – then you will likely recognise yourself in this play. The bit before we fall in love, when everything feels impossible, is a hard space to live in for so many of us. This play enables us to live in that space with a good measure of dry humour to see us through the cringe. It’s not going to be comfortable, but it will feel significant and honest.

The challenging turns of mood as the conversation unfolds are navigated with precision by our two actors. Letty Thomas is flawless as the ‘woman’ of the duo, both insufferable and utterly loveable, a difficult balance to strike (as she really comes out swinging). Archie Blackhouse is a perfect counterpart, the two delivering shotgun dialogue with intelligence and nuance, very much doing the calibre of the writing justice.

I have been one of the single women of London, on all the apps and on all the dates. It was impossible for me not to identify with this work. Bigger than that, though, this play is a reminder of why we even bother in the first place, how fraught that desire is, and why it’s all worth doing at all. I left feeling devastated by this experience, and yet, utterly seen.

5 Star Rating

Review by Christina

Christina Carè

So they’ve both swiped right. Now they’re meeting for the first time. Facing each other. As if that’s a normal thing to do. But she’s being uncomfortable, and he’s a total bore. The vibe is horrific and the banter is even worse. But something is keeping them in their seats. Something is making them stay. Welcome to your hot date.

Miriam Battye Writer
Katie Posner Director
Rhys Jarman Set & Costume Designer
Rajiv Pattani Lighting Designer
Beth Duke Sound Designer
Gabrielle Nimo Movement Director
Robbie Taylor Hunt Intimacy Director
Gillian Greer Dramaturg
Jacob Sparrow Casting Director
Josephine Tremelling Production Manager
Simon Perkins Company Stage Manager

Archie Backhouse Him
Letty Thomas Her

A Paines Plough, Soho Theatre and Belgrade Theatre production, in association with Landmark Theatres
6-23 Sep
Soho Theatre, London

Strategic Love Play at Soho Theatre 2024

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  • Christina Carè

    'Christina is just another Aussie in London, writing about the arts and signing up for all the weird performance productions the city has to offer. She is Content Editor at Spotlight and tweets from @christinacare.'

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