“Emma” is a theatre piece from ONEOHONE theatre that presents itself as an alternative to traditional chocolates and flowers for Valentines Day. The production is an interactive and fairly immersive retelling of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” in which Emma shares her expertise in match making with a series of actors and audience members who have turned up for a dating event. It’s interactive, it’s interesting—and it’s really very funny.
We all arrive to the dating event and get given name tags and a dating questionnaire to fill out, which are then used wonderfully for an opportunity to break the ice. Matchmaker Emma (a likeable Eleanor Rushton) compares the evening with help from the socially awkward but charming Hettie (Beth Eyre) and grumpy and wounded George (Brian McMahon), while some friends seeking dating matches come along for the ride.
The evening is a delightful look into the good and bad of Emma’s match making whilst she deflects from the issues in her own love life. She’s incapable of realizing how insensitive she is to the heartbreak suffered by George, and takes pride in her abilities to create matches.
Brilliantly, her “skills” are put on display as she match-makes from within the audience. If you were coming to the event to meet someone, there’s a lot of opportunity to interact with the others there, but there really is no pressure to make anything other than a friendly connection with those in the room.
We play games, we dance, we listen to stories both from the characters and the audience (one girl in our performance told perhaps the best awkward first date story I’ve ever heard), and all of this takes place with a bar in the room, should anyone need Dutch courage. You can happily go to this production to observe and merely laugh along, but do be prepared to get up and dance at points.
The performance could have a potential minefield to navigate when it comes to gender stereotypes and “traditional” ideas of matches being made between men and women, but yet there’s none of that here. Men are considered as ideal candidates for men in the same span as if they were women, and there’s a nice mix of the comfortable and the odd in the pairings they pick out.
Where it gets very interesting is that but for a few people who’s slightly over the top inclinations make their roles in the play obvious, it’s very unclear who is and isn’t part of the production out of those of us seated in the audience. The cast have great instincts in selecting audience members to take part in some of the examples and challenges. They are very good at encouraging interaction, and also, equally importantly, not challenging anyone who doesn’t seem comfortable to interact.
My friend and I both expressed surprise at the end when the actual cast members took their bows, as we had assumed that several other members of the audience were in on it – but nope, the cast are just that good and encouraging and managing the interaction.
It’s a delightful and light-hearted production from ONEOHONE Theatre, and a lovely modernization of an Austen classic. The production has finished its run for Valentines Day, but is no way reliant on the holiday to work, and should be popping up again somewhere soon. Please click on this link to find out more about them, or follow them on twitter @oneohonetheatre
And did I find true love? Well… it’s out there somewhere.
The writer was offered a free ticket to review this production.