Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: City Love, Bussey Building

Review: City Love, Bussey Building

Published in The Telegraph, 18.09.2013

Jim and Lucy meet on public transport; the number 12 to Dulwich, to be precise. Their eyes meet. They swap smiles, then fumble hellos. It’s the dream, isn’t it? More than eight million Londoners and yet Transport for London – the capital’s lottery machine – can still throw up a perfect match.

Individually, they’re every twenty-something singleton; outwardly successful, but inwardly insecure. Catatonically so, in fact. Neither’s earning enough and they don’t have life-plans. Both are crippingly self-conscious. And all around them, laid-back, well-dressed, loved-up Londoners go about perfect lives. No-one shows their hangs ups. Everyone feels them deeply.

But together, after awkward emoticon-filled emails and giddy first dates, they’re better. They blossom, each spurring the other on. Life starts to piece itself together. Co-habitation. Brunches. Holidays. They start to think of mortgages, and marriage.

Simon Vinnicombe’s two-hander teeters dangerously close to whimsy. As Jim and Lucy coo and purr – even bumping foreheads at one point – City Love can feel like mainlining condensed milk. Cloying lines – “We are as one,” for example – draw the odd dry-heave. Yet it remains inherently watchable, almost addictively so, such is the patient detail of Vinnicombe’s storytelling. Every now and then, he hits a sweet spot, catching a moment of simple sincerity without tipping into mush.

It probably needs a different – starker – production, one that works against the writing. Instead, Sarah Bedi’s direction indulges it with a soft-focus glow. Ian Bonar and Natasha Broomfield – giving two utterly winning performances – wear matchy-matchy contrasting colours: orange with traces of blue and vice versa. Above them, in Zanna Mercer’s design, there’s a nostalgic mobile of My Little Ponies, VHS videos and friendship bracelets, all silhouetted by a single bulb. Vom.

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