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Kerenza Evans looks for love with Reply to PO Box 49

Images by Adam Dale

 

Reply to PO Box 49 is a fantastic new piece of interactive theatre designed to explore the different ways in which people advertise for love from personal ads to simply the way they dress. Featuring a cast of over 50 professional actors and established writers, it aims to look at the ways people have searched for love from the 1800s to the present day.

The main space of the night takes the form of a market from 1894 with a number of stalls, each manned by actors offering a different insight into love. The first stall I encountered offered delicious cupcakes produced by CakeMeCaroline, a select few containing ‘love notes’ which seemed to be a comment on the unpredictability and luck involved in finding love. Beforehand, I was asked to simply tell the vendor one fact about myself. Resisting the temptation to covertly whisper ‘I know what happened to Amelia Earheart’ and then sidle into the shadows, I offered something actually true, acquired my cupcake and went to explore the rest of the space.

Next, I stumbled across the ‘den’ of a soothsayer who claimed to be able to map out your romantic future. She stated that she could show the man I would marry and asked me to look at an image down a tube of light. ‘Huh’ I remarked. ‘Looks kind of like Mussolini’. It really did; this isn’t some weird affliction where I start to see Mussolini everywhere. 2004 was bad enough for that. To her credit, the soothsayer did not even remotely falter and simply responded ‘Ah! A man of power?!’. While such mystical fortune tellers were a popular means of entertainment back in the 19th century, it is interesting how this has developed into the modern day horoscope; while written horoscopes generally exist for free in newspapers, I understand there are actually still a number of premium rate lines that people can ring for a daily dose of ‘love clairvoyance’. I firmly believe that such people should have their money taken away from them and be made to live in a yurt, but that’s a rant for another time. 

 

The main area additionally saw impressive and original poetry readings, linking the likes of Feist and Dizzee Rascal in a single poem – a duet I would pay to see on stage. It also featured a clothes seller selling clothes deigned to make the opposite sex fall for you, including a jumper covered in knitted fruit. It was the type of the thing your grandmother might knit you as a child. If she hated you.

 

In addition to the main space, we were divided into groups based on a pebble we received at the start of the evening and taken on a journey around the building by singing fisherwoman (most of my Wednesday evenings follow a similar suit). We ventured through various rooms seeing different explorations of love from a couple on an awkward first date to a woman browsing online dating to a 19th century scene of a hopeful love letter hidden in someone’s shoe. The first two scenes were of particular interest as they represented scenes that I so commonly see in my friends. The reluctance to go on a first date, the fear that it might be ‘awkward’ or the lack of courage to pursue someone they like ‘because it might turn out badly’. It is something I have never understood. A date need only be a drink and whether you are meeting them for the first time on a blind date or simply getting to know someone you have stared lovingly across the office at for the last three years, it need not be the horrifying nightmare to which some people work themselves up. Unless of course you go back to his house to find it has been decorated as a homage to seminal 1980s childhood classic ‘The Neverending Story’. Then feel free to feel awkward. And run. Overcoming this ‘fear’ of a first date is a topic covered by the poignant and humorous final scene – two cleaners discussing relationships, one of whom is getting ready to meet her date for the first time.

A thoroughly enjoyable and insightful evening into one of time’s constant fascinations - the quest for love. While the medium may change, the goal of the citizens of 1894 to 2012 remains the same.

Don't miss out on 'Reply to POBox 49'- showing til 14th July. Get tickets here.