In my other life I put on 70’s and 80’s nights, and up till now I hadn’t seen the appeal of a 90’s night. But I had such a good time at 2 Become 1 by Swipe Right Theatre company that it has now gone right to the top of the list.
You first have to leave any desire for a plot at the door of the King’s Head Theatre. There is the beginning of one but it peters out without you even realising it, as you are having so much fun. Jess (Natasha Granger) has been dumped and left heartbroken by a boyfriend and her three best friends think the solution is to go out speed dating. The next hour follows them in a dating scenario, which basically means they tell us their views on men, sing a lot of songs and do a lot of indecent thrusting and wiggling, I mean dancing.
A big spotlight shines on each one of them in turn as they talk about themselves to the unheard person on the other side of the table – which allows us to find out about the characters of the girls. They are quite stereotypical – for instance, Charlie (Eliza Hewitt-Jones) is sex-mad, Amanda (Jessica Brady) just wants a long-term commitment – but still the characters are done well and they positively reek of the 90’s in their platform wedges and tiny dresses. My personal favourite is Molly (Kerrie Thomason, one of the founding members of Swipe Right Theatre company, along with Granger). She says she’s the dim one but in fact she comes up with some of the truest lines in the whole play. Thomason is very funny and the expressions on her face tell a million stories.
The dating chats are interspersed with some short scenes and some very funny songs which, depending on your age, you might well remember (I sang along to practically every one). Between scenes we also hear a voiceover of some dubious men and their chauvinist opinions about what they are looking for in their perfect woman. This is perfect for getting the audience to scream at the stage, but otherwise I didn’t really understand why all the men were such idiots with such sexist views. Moreover, I wanted our girls to realise they could have a good time without worrying about where to snag a man or what a man might think of them. Maybe heterosexual dating really was like this in 1997.
The absolute highlight is the musical aspect of 2 Become 1. Despite assumptions from the title and the fashion in the marketing of the show, this is not all about the Spice Girls. We do have excerpts from 2 Become 1 and Wannabe, but also the girls perform a whole load of hits from the 90’s which take you right back there and some of them have a whole new spin on them. We hear from girl bands from All Saints to Destiny’s Child, there’s a hilarious imitation of Britney Spears and a couple of hits from Shania Twain (there’s a classic scene where Molly interacts with the audience for That don’t impress me much), along with other massive tunes from Cher, Christina Aguilera and so many more. You have never seen a version of No Scrubs like this one, sat on the loo and singing into toilet brushes, and you will laugh your head off at the Celine Dion take off from Titanic, tin whistle accompaniment and all.
This latter scene is so funny. It involves Amanda and the crush she has only seen on the bus before. She picks on a man in the front row of the theatre who is obviously there with his male partner. They are both such good sports that neither of them mind when Brady sits right on his lap, facing him, and sharing his drink, and when she invites him on stage for the crowning glory of My Heart Will Go On, his boyfriend stands up too to capture the whole thing on his phone. In fact both of them end up on stage for the medley finale!
If you were the ‘right age’ during the 90’s, even if you don’t think you enjoyed the music at the time, 2 Becomes 1 looks back on this period with such gentle comedy that you will find yourself having a lot of fun. The references of Justin and Britney, Cosmo magazine, Blockbusters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer make you realise quite how long ago the 90’s really were. Don’t go and see this for a complicated plot or a deep character analysis, but get a bunch of friends together, and enjoy it for what it is – a feel-good trip back in time to the pop music and dating mores of the 1990’s. And support the King’s Head Theatre while you are at it!
hattydaze rating: ****/*****