Games for Lovers at the Vaults
In case you haven’t yet had your fill of oh-so-original commentary on millennials navigating the oh-so-fun world of modern dating, then Games for Lovers has you covered. Ryan Craig’s play follows four young adults as they deal with relationship woes, crushes and bad sex, and is filled with about as many contemporary rom-com clichés as you’d expect. Lamenting the perils of dating via periodic Tinder mentions? Check. Pessimistic remarks about how love is a “load of bollocks”, interspersed with the occasional worry about finding “the one”? Check. That one guy who thinks of himself as a bit of a ladies’ man, but really knows nothing about women? You get the point.
PE teacher Logan (Calum Callaghan) has just moved in with his girlfriend Jenny (Tessie Orange-Turner), and their romance is a little rocky, to say the least. Incompatible in more ways than one, they face their biggest challenge in the form of his childhood best friend Martha (Evanna Lynch), who Logan may or may not be in love with. These feelings may or may not be reciprocated, though you can probably guess it’s the former. Rather conveniently, Martha has just moved in with Logan’s long-time friend Darren (Billy Postlethwaite), the textbook over-confident cad who considers himself an expert in the art of seduction – he’s not. Somewhere along the way, we learn Martha also has a crush on her co-worker, with Darren offering some laughably dreadful advice on how to land the object of her affections. It’s a simple premise that despite the overdone subject matter, has promise. This is never fully realised, however, with Games for Lovers instead feeling like an overly long ode to the British rom-coms of yesteryear, but with half the laughs and none of the endearing, bumbling charm.
The cast all do a solid job, though Postlethwaite steals the show with his comic portrayal, somehow making Darren likeable despite the character’s Neanderthal view of women. There are also a few notable moments, with Jenny and Logan engaging in sexual role play while Logan nervously recounts the stops on a bus route being a particularly memorable scene. These segments are few and far between though, and only highlight just how distinctly average everything else is. Even the spirited choreographed moments throughout do little in the way of adding much interest.
The Vaults Theatre space is a curious setting for the production. The underground venue beneath Waterloo station doesn’t quite seem to fit, and together with Matt Haskin’s frequent use of red/blue lighting and Simon Scullion’s wacky set design – reminiscent of a 90’s children’s game show but like, on acid – it all doesn’t make much sense.
This light-hearted look at love means well, but it all just feels rather pointless. Relationships can be complicated, dating can be a drag and sometimes we make a mistake or two in the name of love. We get it. Without digging a little deeper, however, the most Craig’s production can expect is a swift swipe left.
Photos: Geraint Lewis
Games for Lovers is at the Vaults from 12th July until 25th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.