A Strange Romance & A Trivial Dispute by Ian Dixon Potter – White Bear Theatre, London
The White Bear Theatre in Kennington, despite its typical pub theatre size (tiny) is carrying on as though the 2020s had never happened, staging a deluge of new writing to a small, socially distanced audience. It’s both a treat and an eerie experience to enjoy such a complete experience of past normality, a harbinger we must hope of what will return.
Ian Dixon Potter’s Tales of the Golden Age is a cycle of apparently unrelated one-person shows, monologues which show an admiral inventiveness. These two plays, from a wider repertoire of monologues written in lockdown, address current concerns through single characters. A Strange Romance, performed by Tom Everatt, is a condensed version of Dixon Potter’s play ‘Boy Stroke Girl’. It looks at whether it’s possible to fall in love with someone without knowing their gender, or caring what it is. As an intellectual exercise this is fascinating, but it is undermined by characterisation. Peter, a mechanic who falls for someone called only ‘Blue’, gives the impression of being nice but very dim, which leaves us with the impression, apparently unintended, that he is being manipulated both by his doubting/bigoted mates and by Blue, whose every wish is law.
A Trivial Dispute performed by Neil Summerville, delivers a stronger, more convincing character in Trevor, Purley born and bred, a millionaire three times over, owner of the third largest tanning salon chain in East Surrey and lover of classic cars (British only). Trevor has a certain amount of Alan Partridge about him but, as we gradually discover, is a lot angrier. Dixon Potter has written a biting but never bitter parody of the conservative, flag-waving, Brexit supporter threatened by anything different to him – especially foreign cars, intellectuals, women and people who aren’t white. The Croydon borders setting is very convincing with and the action set in the fictional Blackleafe, a flipside version of real life Whyteleafe. Summerville is excellent, elicting a certain amount of sympathy for Trevor, whose complaints of being looked down upon ring true despite his beleaguered outlook. His confession careers comically and inevitably towards disaster, like a Midsummer Murders plot gone wrong, a cleverly, lightly written combination of tragedy and farce.