Theatre review

‘The Dead Tinder Society’ — romping through the cloud in search of true love

By Lesley Stones 30 July 2019

Sharon Spiegel-Wagner is excellent as newly divorced Jody and Mpho Osei-Tutu dances on as Ray, her best friend, confidante and drinking companion in ‘The Dead Tinder Society’. (Photo: Wessel Odendaal)

In this light-hearted look at dating disasters, Ashleigh Harvey has created enjoyably fresh material in the theatrical equivalent of a chick flick.

The Tinder dating app was theoretically created to help people find true love, but it’s proved more effective as a source of meaningless shags and fertile material for comedians.

This makes it far more useful and broadly appreciated than its original intended niche.

The latest spin-off is The Dead Tinder Society, a new play by actress and writer Ashleigh Harvey about a mid-thirties divorced mother taking the plunge again.

This light-hearted look at dating disasters (are there any other kind?) sounds similar in vein to the play Violet Online and the recent comedy Tease!, but Harvey has created enjoyably fresh material in the theatrical equivalent of a chick flick.

While the overall premise is familiar – a woman unexpectedly looking for love again despite the career and kids accoutrements – Harvey’s smart and sensitive writing steers clear of tired clichés and déjà vu.

It’s the biggest strength, of course, is that it’s so relatable, with a high proportion of society having gone through a split up and trying to get back in the dating saddle.

Sharon Spiegel-Wagner is excellent as newly-divorced Jody, starting out by talking directly to the audience in a style that’s funny, engaging, sweet and sassy simultaneously. She pulls wicked faces when she mentions “the other woman” in restrained but physical comedy that enhances her delivery.

Then Mpho Osei-Tutu dances on as Ray, her best friend, confidante and drinking companion, who encourages her to dive back into the fray with Tinder.

It’s all a long, regrettable way from the days when women were courted and wooed, she laments, but gives it her all, and we’re soon laughing at sexual references that are tastefully funny.

Director Lesedi Job has them moving nicely, giving the play a rhythm and flow as characters come and go. As Jody swipes through profiles on her phone a projector screens various faces behind them. I’d love to know if these are real profiles, or if the team managed to persuade a rogues gallery of dodgy dudes to pose especially for the pictures.

Osei-Tutu is loveable as Ray, and anyone fortunate enough to have a friend like him will particularly appreciate his character. But his lack of convincing accents means he’s representing the Tinder dates like Sven or Avi rather than believably becoming them. But that’s fine, because this is frothy entertainment where they can get away with it.

The title is loosely inspired by the movie The Dead Poet’s Society, which has a theme of being true to yourself and rebelling against the conformity the world expects. There’s not a lot of that deeper meaning in here, but it’s a catchy title.

In fact, despite the subject matter’s possibility for leading you down an interesting emotional road of recrimination, regrets or deeper analysis of relationships, the show never ventures there.

The disaster of a cheating husband, imploding marriage, juggling two kids and a job and numbing the pain with wine and weed are all treated with humour, with no maudlin moments or deeper insights.

That doesn’t feel like a major lack, it just leaves The Dead Tinder Society pitched as an enjoyable comedy, despite teasing you with the potential to dig a little deeper. Would that work any better than sticking with the froth? I suspect it would, and it could give the production longer, stronger legs and more of those intriguing depths that some daters love to dig for. DM

The Dead Tinder Society runs at Montecasino’s Pieter Toerien Studio Theatre until 25 August 25. Tickets from Computicket.


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