CLICK.COM – REVIEW

Internet dating laid bare in this unflinching comedy-drama
click mouse heart
Exposing matching sites in such an entertaining way makes them far less embarrassing to own up to, says Olla Poltescu
From the off CLICK.COM gallops into the world of internet dating with Paul Smith’s  side-splitting portrayals of farmer Geoff and outrageous medallion man Donald – ‘don’t call me Donny or I’ll mimic The Osmonds’.
Recently divorced Hannah bats aside the attention of these suitors only to leave a void for other suspect characters, Vivienne Evans’ accomplished performance exposing the dilemma of a jilted woman intent on getting a life.
Janet, Deirdre and the cloying Betty, through dates with Harvey (a solid performance by promising Giles Lantos), show that problems finding a suitable partner are felt equally by both genders; I sensed a clear ‘there but for the grace of God’ murmur filtering around a crowded Bosbury Parish Hall.
With online matching sites firmly in the dating mainstream, I’d wondered what I could learn from this preview of aspiring local playwright Paul Costello’s new comedy-drama. Any doubts evaporated when, no spring chicken myself, I found it addressing the particular plight of women of a certain age; knowing nods across the room told me I was not alone. Hannah’s experiences place the sensitivity of ‘mature’ people in stark perspective. Not for them the ‘find-follow-and possibly forget’ formula that young generations arguably see as the norm; more one of a longing driven by hope eternal.
Despite its priceless humour, CLICK.COM never becomes a gratuitous exposé of dodgy dating and people behaving badly. When things aren’t going quite as they should a clever counterplot develops which, with the play’s reassuring romantic undertone, keeps the audience feeling as optimistic as feisty Hannah.
The notion of being supported by trusted others is particularly helpful. Hannah’s daughter Ellie, expertly played byHettie Guilding, (‘just chill, mum’) will be recognised by mothers across the land. The tough role of Sarah, Hannah’s fragile friend and confidante, is superbly delivered by Hilary Benoit, and even Hannah’s taxi driver (Dave Pollard) offers sound moral support.
As the plot unravels through a beautifully-worked, Ayckbournish piece of farce, it becomes clear that no-one can guarantee true love running smooth and has no absolute right that it should. Director Bob Maynard’s refreshingly funny production of this true-to-life drama undoubtedly gets that message across.
CLICK .COM is showing at Bosbury Parish Hall, near Ledbury                                     
Friday 24th/Saturday 25th July at 7.30pm    (£10)                                                           
Online: www.ticketsource.co.uk/ruraltheatreplayers  In Person: Ledbury Books and Maps, 20 High Street, Ledbury 
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WHAT A SWELL PARTY THIS IS!

I wasn’t settled enough for BBC Springwatch or Dinner Date on ITV. A few Butty Bachs in the Talbot Inn had energised me like Duracells. I needed to keep going, and a pack of San Miguel was a good place to start.

The pub music still circles round my head – Sister Sledge, Donna Summer, Bee Gees. I know every word and note. Cue for a rare dip into my vinyl collection. CDs are easier, but tonight only vinyl will do. Not just the sound, but remembering when and where I acquired these wonderful 33s and 45s. And what mattered to me at the time – in life and love.

San Miguel to hand, I sift through alphabetical LPs in the black trunk which serves as a side table. 70s/80s disco perhaps – carrying on where the pub left off. Sister Sledge – ‘Music Makes Me Feel Good’ – great track! Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing and Saturday Night Fever. And Real People by Chic, a 1980 album whose sleeve sports a young guitarist Nile Rodgers, dazzling us still on Daft Punk’s 2014 hit Get Lucky.

I swig beer and sway to the beat, wildly, like ‘Dad at the Wedding’. Tweaking the volume to 23, I recall people I shared these sounds with way back, wondering which of today’s friends might enjoy them. Julie and Dave are always singing. And Carol – she knows the words to every tune written. I could invite them round to reminisce. Eight or ten people perhaps – dinner and nostalgia! Tim and Cathy – they’re fun! Me and Tessa of course, and Michael – he’d be up for it. Oh, and the Johnsons. I make a note of the ideal ten!

Four Tops Greatest Hits is next. I open another can, party plans and San Miguel in full flow. I’ll do that crabby/prawny starter with spicy mayonnaise; they’ll love that. And a chilli con carne with veg chilli option. Basmati rice and toasted pitta. And my prize-winning Lemon and Orange Cheesecake!

Four Tops have finished ‘reaching out’, so time for 45s. My singles, skimpy paper sleeves long perished, are protected between the glossy pages of old ‘Personnel Management’ magazines. You can tell how old they are – it’s been called ‘Human Resources’ for decades. The collection has moved home about twenty times, in a battered Mackenzie Whisky box.

I discover Michael Jackson, some early Stones and Beatles, and Barry White’s Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe for which I nudge the volume to 27. Retro! Perfect party music! Trouble is the tracks only last a few minutes. Part of their charm, but it does tie you to the turntable. I’m lucky my 1980s music centre has a turntable; an added party novelty! Shame there’s no drop-down feature where you stack a dozen singles and they fall in turn, like my first record player – a Bush.

I fetch a new beer. As I swig and jig madly on the red rug dance area I remember Don and Jenny. Of course they must come too. And the Wilsons, and Frank and June. That’s sixteen. Perhaps a buffet would be better; food in the kitchen and dancing in the living room. A soirée. I could ask all the neighbours – that’s another  fourteen. And people at choir. And the man who runs the garage opposite – he’s friendly. And people I once worked with – a sort of reunion. I slurp excitedly. And the folk at Ledbury in Bloom, and the Canal Trust in Worcester. And my friends in Sussex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Scotland and London. And my brother in Haywards Heath, and all my nephews and nieces. I could put them up. They’d love to come!

Vying with max volume 31, I shout along to Marvin Gaye’s Heard It Through The Grapevine, which like the other singles takes me back to a particular time and place – when life was perfect. Pausing only for liquid refreshment, and a frequent change of 45s, I keep adding to the list. I’m up to seventy-five, but assuming a third can’t make it that’d leave fiftyish – just right!

A last San Miguel. Batteries are running down. Finish planning tomorrow. Perhaps a spam sandwich before I crash out. I eventually hear the front door bell on repeat. The lady next door in off-white dressing gown.

‘Hello,’ I say, keen to reinforce my newfound neighbourliness.

‘Can you please turn it down?’ she says, doing a switching hand movement while mouthing the words. I bid her goodnight with reciprocal sign language and turn the music down. It’s not even ten – bit early to complain? Perhaps I’ll knock her off the list.

Next morning, after a gallon of tea, I fire up the laptop. Nearby I see a list of names. A few look familiar, most are like doctor’s writing – impossible to decipher. Who are these people?

My eye is drawn towards a browning paper note taped to the laptop lid.

“No texts, emails, Facebook or any communications late at night!”

With trepidation, I go into Outlook and check my ‘sent’ folder. Phew, nothing for two days! I slip the list into the recycling along with loads of empty cans – leftovers from a terrific party.

Paul Costello Copyright © July 2015

 CLICK .COM showing at Bosbury Parish Hall, near Ledbury                                          Friday 24th/Saturday 25th July at 7.30pm                                                                    Tickets:       Online:        www.ticketsource.co.uk/ruraltheatreplayers                                                         In Person:   Ledbury Books and Maps, 20 High Street, Ledbury

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 Paul Costello – Writer       Website: www.paulcostello.me       Twitter: @PaulCostello8