Mate - reviewed by Laura Davidson

07 Feb 17

Laura Davidson
Irish lawyer by day, reviewer by night. Theatre, film and comedy enthusiast. Global traveller and avid foodie.
This one-woman show about the trials and tribulations of dating in your thirties stars Alicia McCormick. The script (apparently based on real occurrences) was written by frustrated thirty-something singleton Samantha Gray. The theme must strike a chord in Cape Town, as the play was sold out the evening I attended.

A simple stage spotlights women in a ‘love recovery’ workshop where the ‘therapist’ looms at us on film, her hair grey and wiry, her glasses pulled on and off when reading members’ profiles and addressing the attendees.  The workshop takes the shape of an AA meeting, with members embarrassed to be there, yet placed under pressure to talk.  As the play continues, the therapist becomes increasingly less sympathetic, railing at us like the spinster she probably is.  
The excellent McCormick plays three different women – Janine, Elaine and Sarah – with aplomb.  Her only prop is a carefully tossed scarf.  Each woman is entirely convincing, and the actress slices in and out of character like a sharp knife. The pitiful and lachrymose Sarah is trying so hard to get over her ex-boyfriend, but perhaps her brave sojourn to Paris (the ‘city of love’), was a mistake. Gum-chewing Janine is the plain speaker, gesticulating like a gun-toting cowgirl determined to lasso a mate. Elaine is the posh toty who languidly describes her abortive dates with disdain. The piece describes their various dating exploits as well as compromises – after all, the ticking clock is speeding up. I felt that Sarah’s terror at being ‘on the shelf’ at the grand old age of thirty-two was a little over the top, and the script seemed a tad unnecessarily bitter. Of course, it was borne from the realities of internet dating which raises hopes and repeatedly bludgeons them. Naturally, the dating app which coined a new meaning for the word swipe gets a mention. 
Is there hope for female-kind?  On the whole, the tenor of the play is no.  By its end, only one of these women finally finds love, although I won’t spoil the surprise about which one. The play did draw laughs, though I think its comic success was largely due to McCormick’s talent in switching character. There are, however, some keen observations about the sad realities of dating, such as the universal female horror at poor spelling, and a synchronised audience rolling of eyes at one suitor’s deconstructed hippy man-bun. Mate is liable to resonate more with women than with men for obvious reasons – but my gay friend also found it amusing, and there were numerous other males in the audience. Given that it’s another sell-out this evening, the theme’s popularity is plain. So if you feel like some solidarity therapy after examining your own lacklustre love-life - or if you’re a smug married and want to thank your lucky stars for it - you’d better buy your ticket soon.
Tickets: R100 online, R110 on the door
Dates:  7 - 8 & 13 - 18 February 2017

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