You know you’re in trouble when an anecdote about a cat defecating on a pillow gets the night’s biggest laugh.
Blind Date which opened last night at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre began life in March 2013 as a 15 minute play.
It was apparently received with enthusiasm at some festivals up North, and, in a highly ill-advised move, has now been extended, with the help of Arts Council funding, to a full-length production.
Andrew (Will Travis, recently Neil, the obsessed stalking husband of Andrea in Corrie) and Angela (his real life wife Susan McArdle) are both sad, lonely, and looking for someone to love.
So, in a completely incomprehensible move, they fabricate their personal details and upload photos of their more-attractive mates, instead of themselves, onto their dating site profiles.
They’re in their early 40s (at a guess) with the emotional maturity, relationship experience and dress sense of 13-year-olds.
They meet, quickly realise they’re not attracted to each other, but bond a bit over their terrible sense of humour, then go their separate ways.
So far so predictable. They obviously meet again, bond a bit more, and then there are some misunderstandings.
A few months later they conveniently bump into each other at a wedding, and you can probably predict the rest.
The problem with writing two characters with such a terribly childish, or old-fashioned (I’m not sure which) sense of humour, is that while their terrible puns might make each other laugh, the audience sits there in painful silence, wondering when the comedy’s going to start.
Angela tells Andrew that she’s “not laughed so hard in ages.” It would have been nice to agree with her.
The programme tells us that Dave Simpson is an established writer, with some 30 BBC radio broadcasts and several plays under his belt.
He’s scripted a series of nationally-touring plays, but it’s clear from Blind Date’s clichéd plot, and complete lack of originality, that Simpson’s also a soap opera man, having written for Coronation Street, The Bill and Emmerdale.
The majority of jokes sounded like they were dreamt up by a teenage boy at some point in the mid ‘70s, although a good percentage of us giggled a bit at the condom factory puns (Angela’s got a very safe job, plenty of protection) despite trying very hard not to.
The constant Rainbow impressions were just utterly cringe-worthy.
Tasteless quips about dogging, cheap props, and an utterly ludicrous finale might have just about worked in a 15 minute comedy skit at a Manchester pub basement festival, but they come across as decidedly amateur in an off-West-End production.
There were moments when I thought it was all an attempt to parody the ludicrous nature of 21st-century-dating but then Travis would start shaking and crying and trying to do some serious acting.
It failed in that there was no intelligence or sophistication here at all.
Being part of the generation that almost exclusively seems to meet its romantic interests online, I was really hoping to enjoy this.
At its heart, Blind Date is a tale of two very lonely, completely weird, singletons who just desperately want to find a perfect other half.
But every character and plot twist is so irritating, irrational and unrealistic it’s impossible to feel any engagement or compassion at all.
Think back to the very worst night out you ever had with a supposed love-match you’d met online or through friends, and had high hopes for, but then they turned out to be really boring, painfully awkward, and a waste of your time.
Now, just be thankful that at least they didn’t take you to see Blind Date.
Blind Date is running at the Jermyn Street Theatre until Saturday.
One star: ☆