The Matchmaker

Mon 22nd August 2011

reviews

Madeleine Morley

at 10:39 on 23rd Aug 2011

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Arriving at the venue for this play, my reviewing colleague and I realized, to our horror, that we were easily the youngest members of the audience by a good 40 or 50 years. Are we being set up? To add to our confusion and dismay, we learn that the production is going to be two hours long, and after the first 15 minutes we realize that the whole two hours will be composed of three actors reading out incongruous (or at least to me) letters to one another, concerning various blind-dates, a pre-internet dating system for those between the ages of 40-60 arranged by matchmaker Dick Mick Dicky O'Connor (John Shedden). I think this name was supposed to be side-splittingly funny. I didn't get any of the jokes, though. I didn't get any of the references. But the audience, aged an average of 64 and perhaps identifying with the situation, were in stitches. Perhaps the audience was itself part of a much stranger and subtle production than I thought.

After the first hour of being so utterly bored that I had written several letters myself to my reviewing colleague asking him to please tell me what on earth a "glugger" was, there is a 10 minute break. We panic and look for an escape because if we stay any longer it feels like we might turn into one of these love-starved, eccentric, desperate and lonely characters begging Dick to set us up with our "perfect" match, which includes a doddery love-starved farmer and a total creep with a particularly sly chat-up line involving toffee. I can actually feel myself getting older as I watch the show, a little desperate myself, and I've started using words like "canoodling". To calm myself down I read the program and learn that the play is an adaptation written by Donald Smith, based on a book by the Irish writer J B Keane called 'Letters of a Matchmaker'.

It's not that this is a bad play. The acting is more than competent, Finlay MacLean wonderfully transforming into all sorts of love-starved weirdo's, and Anna Hepburn playing the parts of the coy woman, or the lonely woman, or the widow woman, the mere addition of a hat or an apron suddenly bringing a new character to life. It's just not a play meant for me, or anyone born in the last two or three decades of the 20th century. Maybe an updated version about the emails of matchmaker.com might be more appropriate, but if you're aged 60+, looking for love, own a computer and have taken a wrong turn to this student theatre web site, then perhaps that wrong turn was fated. The Matchmaker is the perfect match for you. It just wasn't my type at all.

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David Knowles

at 11:32 on 23rd Aug 2011

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As I sat down in the audience I became rather apprehensive. My fellow reviewer and I were clearly the youngest people in the audience by about forty years. That stated, it makes it very difficult to properly appraise this play. References and arcane words and phrases that were knowingly chuckled at by the appreciative audience sailed clean over my head.

The acting was lovely. Finlay McLean performed his various parts with aplomb and skill, switching between accents and costumes and characters in a very convincing manner. Anna Hepburn (who also played many different parts) was also impressive; her interpretation of the wittering Miss Crust was pitch perfect and possibly the highlight of the show. John Shedden in the title role delivered a sterling performance as the Irish matchmaker himself matching perfect timing with a gorgeous, rolling Irish accent.

My main problem with the play lies not with the performers but with the meandering and frankly dull script. The play is written in the form of (seemingly endless) letters that chart the love lives of various disparate Irish country folk. It’s a sweet concept no doubt but the repetitive nature of the script ground my brain into fine dust over what seemed like the longest two hours I have ever experienced. I must repeat for emphasis that the cast were not responsible for this at all, they did the utmost they could with a deeply boring script.

That I found the play monotonous does not mean that it didn’t speak to some of the audience, who clearly enjoyed the intimate and ambling nature of the play. I would tentatively suggest that The Matchmaker is a play that really shouldn’t be seen by anybody under fifty; our modern selves who require instant gratification in every walk of life just don’t have the patience to try to understand two hours of heartfelt letters.

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