Fringe 2008, Good Luck Bar
Feb 24-29 | Reviewed by Helen Sims

MEL DODGE’s solo piece for the Fringe centres around a character called Sophie, a bar manager and modern day romantic and a diverse range of characters (all played by Dodge). Interspersed with scenes set in the bar where Sophie works (Good Luck forms a good back drop for this) are stylised scenes in which Dodge mimes putting on a pair of long gloves (a Jane Austen lady preparing for a ball? A heart surgeon preparing for surgery?) and also divines audience member’s romantic history in a BBC style accent, potentially indicating she is channelling Austen herself. There are references to the past and Austen’s characters, such as when a Mr Darcy turns out to be a Mr Wickham, and also to current dating practices, such as facebooking your exes.

Dodge switches between characters with clarity, from the naïve young Mary to the steely eyed glare of Theresa, a woman on the prowl, to Sophie’s slightly repellent brother, Richard. There’s an amusing montage of guys recording video dating messages. A hen’s night group present on the night I attended found the parody of the drunken bride-to-be particularly hilarious. Poor Sophie, being surrounded with all this, can be forgiven for wondering whether romance is still alive and if there really is a Mr Darcy out there for her. However her belief that there is one perfect person out there for her is getting increasingly shaken. True love is out there... somewhere... hopefully.

In Sophie Dodge has created a likeable heroine, even if some of the metaphors employed are a little clumsy. The range of characters portrayed gives Dodge an opportunity to show off her considerable range, although I wondered if all of them were strictly necessary. She is well directed by Patrick Davies, who uses the minimal amount of stage space, props and set well to generate an authentic bar feeling. Changes between ‘real’ time and the stylised scenes are effected mostly by light and sound, operated by Gene Alexander.

Overall there is a hopeful note to this show and Dodge’s considerable talent saves it from being indulgent. Austen may be dead, but romance is still alive ... just don’t expect it to be like the storybooks.