Written by Claire Wood
Directed by Ross Hope
Everyone’s favourite show returns for a raunchy Valentine’s special, so fret not singletons, put down the dating apps, unbutton those tops and get ready for an evening of Love Roulette – where the fate of our contestants is out of their hands. Returning for another digital production, Production Lines continue their deep adoration and commitment to theatre, creating a piece surrounding the current medium rather than merely adapting to the format. Claire Wood’s roulette has been crafted specifically for the Zoom platform, incorporating audience pollings, and weaving the temptation of escaping lockdown as a prize more tantalising than love.
And thankfully, roulette is fun. It’s precisely the jolt the theatre community requires, with a sea of digital productions fabricating importance to maintain their impact and influence it’s a breath of air to watch something which captivates your interest. Wood’s writing may include the tail-end of dramatic poignancy, which Alan Paterson carries exceptionally well, but Wood and director Ross Hope retain something many producers have forgotten – to be entertaining. With the introduction of the polling system, while monitoring the chat our hosts Rex (Paterson) and Dion (Keegan Siebken) provide commentary on the events unfolding bringing a dynamic which for once with audience interaction, bears significance on the show – particularly the comedy.
Concerning the dramatics of the show, there’s a ripple throughout of varying impacts which strike the dating scene. How the struggles relating to isolation, self-worth, feeling ‘past-it’ or how your career somehow ties into people’s perceptions are all tossed into the air. Hope’s direction steers a sense of freedom for performers to run with their characters, to lean into the aspects which make-up their motivations, to both successful and detrimental effects.
So folks, how do we fell about this evening’s contestants? Are we partial to the wise words of the gentlemanly mountain man found within Gregor Haddow’s Vardo, a man who could likely crush your head between his thighs, but would carve a wooden salt spoon as he did so? Maybe it’s Caroline Mathison, who is so believable in her role as the coerced Eartha, that suspicions arise she’s doing this show against her will. Or is the authenticity, grounded but engaging presence of Lorna Craig as Harriet more your cup of tea? There’s a plethora to gorge on, and the audience is certainly thirsty. Who can blame them, it’s been a long Lockdown.
And, of course, where would a dating show be without good ol’ fashioned misogyny. A testament to their performance, Richard Lydecker has absolutely no care in dragging their name into the dirt as the repulsively recognisable Tristan. There’s a taste in the air to Lydecker’s role, one of cheap aftershave and perversion, and is carried so well and precisely leads the audience where one would expect them too. Less developed, surprisingly, is Saira, Vanashree Thapliyal’s spin on the pandemic exhausted doctorwhich leaves a slight dent in the otherwise well-buffed character roster. Down more to direction, the energy feels both manic and restrained, and like Dion feels a bit withdrawn when standing among the other characters. There’s more to showcase from Thapliyal’s determined performance, which brings a buzz and tremendous life, but this is the gamble taken with audience manipulation as they determine favourites.
But even with these one-note characters, there’s a surprising depth for those willing to go beyond the superficial. As Tristan opens up around his family, aspirations and concerns, Lydecker channels a, dare we say, sincerity to the role. This isn’t to say everything has grand meaning, some stereotypes and shortcuts eke out and taint a few character interpretations or slog down the momentum when placed in comparison with others, but there’s more going on behind the scenes than a mere game of Blind Date.
But this is part and parcel with the style of production Hope and Wood aim towards. Audiences will have their favourites (Harriet & Eartha for the win), they’ll have their biases and roulette openly reveals this. There are far more connections and thoughts behind what the audiences see going on – and that is the evidence of passionate theatre-makers. From the character choices, to design work, to the wonderfully chipper House-band, Production Lines once more prove their salt as Scottish Theatre producers.
And though love isn’t always the answer, this love of performance, and theatre, is what channels companies such as our own grassroots Production Lines into creating engrossing pieces. Shows which demonstrate capabilities, but mercifully entertain and enrich audience experiences. roulette may only be the second venture into a digital production for Production Lines, but it unequivocally demonstrates a nerve for creativity and loyalty to the industry – and a fearless attitude to take jabs at themselves.
Performances of roulette occur on the 14th, 18th, 19th & 20th of February at 8pm. Tickets are free and available from EventBrite