Dating In London: Why I’m All In

Like most adventures, moving to London has brought with it both boundless opportunity and potential predicaments in equal measure.

Dating included.

Akin to being met with a supermarket cereal aisle, unless you know specifically what you want and can smugly beeline for those bran flakes, the choice is frankly startling and the process of choosing, tedious.

There are so many people! I would ponder to no one in particular. The streets and their restaurants are crammed full of them. How am I ever going to filter out all the debris and find a suitor worthy of my company?! Where does one possibly begin?

One word. Tinder.

I began, as so many my age do, with the careless, almost indifferent swiping of fellows that fell into my selected criteria. (24-31, 5 mile radius, in case you were wondering).

North London has thrown up some woefully inconsistent options in that arena. For every match, you then have to endure the boredom of small talk, and one you get past that stage actually pinning down a person for an actual, face-to-face date can prove tiresome. I frequently waste a week, two weeks, if not more, vaguely getting to know someone in a casual back and forth way that often peters out like a lazy basketball as it dribbles into the corner. There is no momentum or spark on Tinder; you’re free to come and go as you please with little repercussion and it’s proffered more dead-ends and disappointments than it has candidates.

It’s fun to fallback on, like a memory foam mattress, but reliable it is not. The net is cast so wide that meeting someone with similar interests or ambitions, or who even wants to message you at all, is frustratingly scarce.

Another option, however arcane it may seem, is to head out to an alcohol-serving establishment and pluck up the courage to talk to someone in person, using your actual tongue.

Since moving to London I have done this on two occasions, (forgive the bragging), both with moderate success. On the first, I was playing darts – a sport which oozes sexual allure if ever I’ve known one – and struck up a repartee with a man whose eyeball I almost had out with a rogue throw. I continued chatting to him for this anecdote alone.

He was perfectly charming and at the end of the night we exchanged numbers, if just for the confidence boost. Yes, he was a pawn in my own game of self-assurance, but I have no regrets about the fact it felt good and I knew there and then it would be nothing more. The whole process took about one hour, and it was merely a side order to the delicious main course of a fun night out.

The second night took place at a pub known for it’s retro tunes and I boldly approached a gentleman whose shape throwing I greatly admired. We twisted, shouted, shook it up and worked it on out for a good few hours and come the end of the night I knew he was merely a dance – as opposed to life, partner. Ultimately I came with my friends and I left with my friends, but it was good to know that there are guys out there and that meeting them doesn’t have to feel like a covert chore or an arduous elimination process.

Beyond that, I have plans to attend a speed-dating night hosted by The Book Club and may or may not have signed up to go on a Guardian Blind Date (watch this space….), because why the hell not. Both provide environments where you’re guaranteed to meet someone who has similar intentions and desires to your own. Sure they might not be a cat-person (essential), or enjoy lie-ins (non-negotiable), but they are there to have a conversation and asks questions about more than you’re attire or cup size, which can only be a good thing.

Like streaming platforms (because this is a film blog and I love a metaphor) there are several options to account and curate for different taste. Netflix, much like Tinder, provides you with an overwhelming sea of options – not all great. You have to scroll/swipe for what feels like hours before coming across something which still runs the risk of being subpar. Mubi, on the other hand, professes to provide highbrow, art-house cinema; like the Guardian Soulmate of the VOD world. You might be narrowing your options, but in the hopes that every selection will result in an enjoyable experience or at least a  talking point at your next dinner party.

Just as I don’t commit to one viewing realm, I’ve come to explore a plethora of ways to find a companion (if just for the night… sorry Nan) in the big city.

There is no longer a right or wrong way to meet your match. Yes I’m still more likely to whisper Tinder, than I would be if I met the future Mr. Davis at a bookstore and both our hands reached for Richard Yates at the same time, but alas if the outcome is positive and brings happiness, surely the origin of our romance is irrelevant? And if I can boogie to Bruce Springsteen with a good-looking gent or two in the meantime well then dating is something I’m all for.

Theatre Review: Fiesta

A matador enters dressed in an ornate jacket and revealingly well-fitted tights. As he slowly, rhythmically drags his feet along the ground he takes a dominant stance, as if killing his bull. Meanwhile, Jake (Gideon Turner) sits centre stage and, in a low, gravelly voice, speaks about dying. 

This is how the latest adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises begins. In the intimate, minimalist space of the Trafalgar Studios, three actors and the live jazz band Trio Farouche, recreate the quaint streets of Paris, with its brooding, smoky atmosphere and the frenzy of Pamplona, with its excess and chaos.

The walls are lined with rustic corrugated iron and the floor is a speckled, stained wood. Plush Broadway this is not. However, when coupled with loud jazz and the fact you are literally sharing the stage with the actors, it is perhaps the best setting for emulating Hemingway’s ability to transport you into the scene.

Lady Brett Ashley (Josie Taylor) explodes onto the scene in a frenetic, volatile, sensuous and alcoholic style: flirting with the drummer, Charleston-ing with Jake and promptly sleeping with his best friend, Robert (Jye Frasca). Director Alex Helfrecht struggles however with the material once we get beyond aesthetics.

Much of the context; the aimlessness of the lost generation, male fragility and the subsequent immorality is glossed over with drink, dancing and debauchery. The sense of the text is there, but the meaning is lost. Having said that, there is something uniquely voyeuristic, authentic and exhilarating to a theatre where the rows are four-deep and you can see each tassel on the actress’ dress shimmy as she cavorts about the stage, or as beads of sweat roll down the face of a drummer who has just hit his loudest beat.

It certainly manages to reproduce the energy and ferocity of Paris and Spain in the 1920s that Hemingway evoked. Turner’s Jake is given the most to work with and (no pun intended) turns in a haunting and aggressive performance, whilst Taylor’s Lady Ashley is at times shrill, but mostly fierce and captivating. Unfortunately, to fit the expanse of the novel into a two hour production, the director seems to have altered many of their interactions so that their love and jealousy for each other isn’t enitrely believable.

Moreover, some of the other directorial choices are rather strange. For all the sense of reality Helfrecht chooses to evoke by having a live band, the actors then mime drinking from wine glasses suspended from the ceiling, momentarily breaking the continuity of the scene to then continue with their dialogue. It’s jarring and slightly awkward and one gets the feeling it was an interesting idea on paper, but one that doesn’t quite translate onto stage.

After a short interval when Jake decides to relocate to the Spanish countryside and take Brett with him, the audience re-enter the room as a barefoot saxophonist serenades them to their seats. The floors have been doused in vinegar and the hanging glasses are now filled with wine. We are in Pamplona.

9595_fullThe bull-fighting scenes are interestingly executed. Red lighting illuminates the matador we saw during the opening scenes, as he mesmerizingly emulates the dramatic movements of a man preparing to kill his prey. However, Lady Ashley then transforms into the bull in a bizarrely choreographed sequence that results in the actress displaying some nasty bruises all down her legs and arms. Once again continuity and absorption have been seemingly sacrificed for stylistic experiments.

At one point, after participating in the bull run (which resembles children running about in a playground), Lady Ashley declares that it’s “completely mad”, words which ring true for the adaptation itself.

It is certainly one of the most sensual and evocative plays I have ever been privy to, however the substance of the play is as lost as the generation it’s based upon. Characters are reduced to stereotypes – Jake’s best friend Robert is a Jewish intellectual, who throws away his life after a one night stand with Brett, but his romanticism and clinging onto tragic pre-war values are never once touched upon. Similarly, when we meet champion bull-fighter Pedro Romero; a figure of youth, purity and strength, he is boiled down to a kid with a crush on Brett.

The play itself is immensely entertaining and you can’t help but get caught up in the frivolity and tension of it all. However, when considered as an adaptation of one of the classic novels of the twentieth century, it doesn’t quite rise to the occasion.