My Romantic History @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

cast list
Iain Robertson, Alison O’Donnell, Rosalind Syndey

directed by
Lyndsey Turner
Romantic comedy is not the simplest of genres to pull off. The twin pits of clich and sentimentality are all too easy to tumble into. D.C Jacksons new play avoids both of these traps; his is a romantic comedy minus most of the romance, a self-styled ‘non-rom-com.’

Tom and Amy work in the same anonymous office as one another. One night, following one too many after work drinks, they fall into bed together. There was no real attraction, no real spark – just too much wine. Their resulting relationship is awkward, unplanned and destined to end messily.
Neither of them likes the other much but for various reasons they end up stuck together, maintaining a faade of a relationship. Tom desperately tries to wriggle his way out of it, but she doesnt seem to get the hint, even when she catches him having a sly wank in her bed.

Jacksons protagonists are ordinary, flawed individuals whose motivations are questionable at best; their relationship is about as far away from star-crossed as you can get. Both are hung up on the ghosts of partners past, clinging to playground crushes and the intensity of that first, failed love even as they hurtle into their thirties.

The first half of the play is presented from Toms point of view but Jackson switches things at the midway point, depicting the same events from Amys perspective. This is a canny way of demonstrating the different ways men and women read certain situations and behaviour; it also eventually allows for a degree of emotional depth that had been previously lacking. Iain Robertson and Alison ODonnell do a good job of making their characters rounded and sympathetic, despite some fairly objectionable behaviour on Toms part and the fact that, initially at least, Amy is only using him to prove a point to her colleague.

Lyndsey Turners production, created by Sheffield Theatres in collaboration with the Bush Theatre, never reaches the same heights of wit and invention as David Greigs Midsummer, which played in the same space last year; it’s occasionally crass in tone (one too many references to pink sick and wanking) and it does get repetitious well before the end, but it contains much to enjoy and manages to reflect a little on disappointment and loneliness before reaching its touching and downbeat conclusion.

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