Review: Loneliness And Other Adventures @ Drayton Arms Theatre, Kensington

To describe Loneliness And Other Adventures in one word, it would be ‘relatable’. Writer and performer Mollie Semple has tapped into the consciousness of so many young women in this one-woman play, focusing on a twenty-one year-old woman as she attempts to deal with loneliness and the fear of dying alone. Under the direction of Sophie Leydon, Semple has crafted and performed a wonderful script, both touching and funny, that is sure to connect with anyone who has ever felt alone.

Semple’s exploration of the titular theme of loneliness is two-fold, drawing on pressures from traditional social norms and from modern media. Throughout the play, the protagonist, Mollie, desperately desires a romantic relationship, enforced by social ideas that only a relationship can bring ultimate validation from the self and society. Semple skilfully avoids a narrative of overwhelming self-doubt by making Mollie acutely self-aware: she knows that she has done many interesting things and that she has good qualities, yet the knowledge of this is not enough to truly counter her insecurities. These contradictions and her over-thinking create a relatable character for audiences, as instead of a static state of loneliness, Mollie fluctuates from niggling self-doubt to overwhelming existential dread of dying alone, all fighting against reason from her rational side. This landscape of emotions insightfully analyses the complexities we often have in our relationship with ourselves, and our ability to love ourselves. Semple’s consideration of online dating in conjunction with loneliness resonates particularly with a young audience. Mollie cleverly touches on the sad and humorous sides of dating apps: from the realities of ghosting to the morbid irony of watching First Dates while setting up your own Tinder dates.

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Despite the seemingly heavy content of the play, it is also incredibly funny, with Semple’s script leaving the audience howling at many points. Mollie’s natural wit heightens her charm as a character and means that philosophical moments are tempered with humorous twists, thus the play avoids becoming too existential. This makes Mollie a much more likeable character, not taking herself too seriously and allowing herself to laugh through the pain. At times, it made me think of a comment on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s writing style, that ‘she can make you laugh so hard that when she swivels to punch you in the gut, “you’re not braced for the impact, and it’s a killer.”’ There is a touch of this trait in Semple’s work, as her humorous moments amplify the pain of other points, making us laugh and cry in equal measure.

It is the honesty of Semple’s words and performance that make it so powerful. Nothing is held back. She creates an intensenly intimate connection with the audience, sharing the type of thoughts that people normally harbour in their heads, only ever to be spilt in occasional intimate conversations with friends, or after a few drinks. Semple’s talent as a performer cannot be overstated, with a singular ability to fully emotionally engage her audience. There was also an attempt at more immersive theatre, with Semple breaking the fourth wall to offer audience members a cup of tea, but, while a nice idea, this felt like a forced token of audience participation, unnatural within the performance. This moment would only be worth retaining if there were more elements of audience participation throughout.

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Mollie’s discussions of sex and masturbation also demonstrated the strength of Semple’s honest script, particularly in contrast to the erroneous social taboos surrounding masturbation, and particularly female pleasure. Mollie unashamedly discusses these, most especially in a wonderfully funny scene where she traces her vibrator longingly over her body while considering the superior pleasure of a wank to the performativity of sex, and the pros and cons of wanking after being dumped. Again, Semple manages to successfully balance sadder moments with great humour.

One criticism would be the slightly rushed ending to Loneliness And Other Adventures, jolting a little from a scene showing Mollie quivering on the verge of tears contemplating dying alone, to a more positive outlook considering the value of her love for her friends over romantic love. This is not an inexplicable reversal from her previous self-doubt, as Mollie’s uncertainty does remain, but it does feel like a slightly unnatural leap. However, maybe that was the point: that loneliness is not a stagnant daily state, but rather an emotion that fluctuates in intensity. It would be nice if there was a little more focus on validation through self-love, but we can hope that Mollie’s acknowledgment of the value of her friends’ love is in part a step towards greater acceptance of herself.

Loneliness And Other Adventures brazenly discusses loneliness, masturbation, sex, romance and friendship in a simultaneously moving and hilarious performance. The relatability of Semple’s writing, seemingly felt by the whole audience, can be said to enforce the message of their hashtag, #getlonelywithus, as while we may all fear dying alone, Loneliness And Other Adventures shows us that at least we’re not alone in feeling like that.

Katrina Bennett

 

Photo Credits: Leigh Spence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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