If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming rom-com that’s as satisfying as your favourite comfort food (even if it’s a frozen chocolate muffin, no judgement), “The Dating Diary” is the theatre show to warm up your chilly autumn evenings. This lockdown-born creation by a group of college friends delivers exactly what it promises: oodles of laughter and a sprinkling of karaoke fun. It’s an antidote to the dark evenings, bringing with it a sense of camaraderie and joy.
Amelia’s Journey to Finding Love
We follow the story of Amelia (Melissa Jessica Amer), as she edges closer to her 30th birthday. She hasn’t found love or had successful relationships so far, despite people around her (including her best friend) progressing in this matter. Together with support from social influencer Laura (Shanika Ocean), they embark on a journey through modern dating, and a cast of intriguing characters, including Kyle (Taylor Pope), a classic misogynist, and his amiable but easily influenced best friend, Crush (Scott Henderson). Along the way, Amelia may discover ‘the one’ in Ronnie (Ryan Downey), an emotionally intelligent and compassionate ex-Army soldier who struggles with suspected PTSD. However, they both must learn to let down their guards and take a chance on love.
Realism in Stage Movements and Characters
What sets “The Dating Diary” apart is how naturally the stage movements and interactions unfold. From quick responses to phone calls to the lifelike pub scenes, it’s a far cry from the often unrealistic scenarios in romantic comedies.
The story even includes nods to Harry Potter fans, with a Harry Potter-themed date and a mention of a chance encounter with Ron Weasley at Sainsbury’s. The attention to detail in character development, like Laura’s HP-related puns, adds depth to the narrative.
The first act maintains its energetic pace, with hilarious pub scenes that keep the audience engaged. The second act, while slightly more varied in tempo, delivers some explosive moments, including a memorable Backstreet Boys singing scene. The integration of the epic shrimp monologue from “Shark Tale” is a highlight and serves as a delightful thread running through both acts.
Defying Stereotypes: Empowered Female Characters
“The Dating Diary” boldly defies stereotypes and patriarchal treatment of female characters. In this story, the women shine as the stronger, more resilient characters who don’t tolerate misogynistic remarks. Amelia, portrayed with fierce confidence by Melissa Jessica Amer, steals the show with her unapologetic persona. Her outstanding performance, including an unexpected rap song, makes her instantly endearing. And let’s not forget her stunning wardrobe that adds an extra layer of charm to her character.
The character of Kyle, portrayed with aplomb by Taylor Pope, embodies the archetype of toxic masculinity. But also, I have to say, I absolutely loved the little quirky hobby he got (collection of various disinfectants, anyone? It gave me the vibe of a Windex-obsessed uncle from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, bless him!).
The frozen muffins snack he offered to his date was hilarious – but also, quite matching to his larger-than-life personality. Kyle’s constant offers of boxing sparring and his comically exaggerated lad persona had the audience in stitches. The humour in this show is off the charts, and the actor’s ability to keep a straight face is a testament to the level of hilarity on display.
Ryan Downey brings the enigmatic and reserved character Ronnie to life, emerging as the most composed and mature male figure in the production. His acting prowess seamlessly aligns with the character’s persona, offering a brilliant counterbalance to the more boisterous Kyle. Surprisingly, he also demonstrates his musical theatre talent during a second-act song, delivering a flawless performance that took me by surprise in the best possible way.
While the show offers plenty of charm, the connection between Laura and her boyfriend Crush falls short of feeling genuinely romantic. Their interactions give off a friendly vibe, with more “babe” exchanges and TikTok videos than intimate moments.
A deeper emotional connection could have enhanced their on-stage chemistry. Additionally, Laura’s character could benefit from further development to explore her interests and personality beyond her role as a supportive friend and successful influencer.
A few minor logical inconsistencies, like Amelia entering her date’s house without knocking, briefly disrupt the realism that the play otherwise excels at. Despite these hiccups, the characters are immensely likeable and feel like friends you’d enjoy sharing a pint with.
A Refreshing Take on Modern Dating Stories
Unlike the cliché ‘find love to find fulfilment’ storyline, “The Dating Diary” takes a refreshing spin. The writing is sharp, the dialogues flow naturally, and it doesn’t shy away from poking fun at the absurdity of modern dating. It’s a simple, silly story that feels like your friends recounting their dating adventures right in front of you.
*I received the ticket to see the show in exchange for an honest review
The Dating Diary
written by Melissa Jessica Amer & Scott Henderson
produced by Outta Nowhere Productions Ltd
24th – 28th October at 7pm