xx (pronounced ‘kiss kiss’) is a newly devised curio by Jack Bradfield concerning love and relationships. The play is structured differently each night by an algorithm, combining at random a set of monologues and scenes involving five actors. This creates a bizarre patchwork: the posturing of a love-struck fool over a dead dog, a gay couple on a rather dismal camping excursion, a girl philosophising at some chips, and a man who lost some keys in a fountain – these are a few of the moveable pieces.
There are flashes of brilliance: a rendition of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” by a doe-eyed effeminate singer, and the laughable craftiness behind the stage props (multi-purpose bungee cords used to illustrate a tube interior, a tent and a photograph). The physical comedy leads to some unfortunate corpsing, which is somewhat forgivable since the writing has touches of good comedy. However, the real let-down for me is the play’s gimmicky premise: a narrative designed by an algorithm is always going to be vague.
xx feels very dense, since it tries to pack a lot into 50 minutes. For instance, the beginning feels inconsequential: the actors clown about with clipboards, asking individual audience members questions about their love life, pausing occasionally to write some hieroglyphic junk on a whiteboard. Is it meant to be the mathematical component presiding over the play? Is the algorithm an experiment to answer the age-old question about love and what it means? I don’t know. Ultimately there is a lot of good writing here, it just needs direction and polish.