Is finding love all about the choices we make? Could two strangers really fall in love after answering the same set of 36 questions? Comedian Rory O’Keeffe brings his first storytelling (or ‘Rorytelling’ as he notes apologetically in his show blurb. Never be ashamed of a good pun, Rory!) hour to Edinburgh.
The 37th Question is a spoken word play inspired by ‘The 36 Questions’, a social experiment designed to find love. A New York Times article entitled, ‘To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.’ sent the questions viral several years ago. Rory also explains that he’s recently gained experience in writing ‘apps for teenage girls’ for The X Factor and Love Island. These apps require the user to make various choices and, depending on each decision, the outcome will differ. Or so the user thinks! There’s a limited number of results so it’s all about the illusion of choice. Merging two ideas, Rory’s offering his Edinburgh audience an interactive love story. It’s a quirky idea which takes the mickey out of the apps while advertising them. It’d be a clever marketing ploy if it didn’t make you cringe slightly. This crowd were far removed from the teenage app target market and, despite polite laughter as Rory pokes fun at himself for taking part in the enterprise, it was obvious no-one was fully on board as Rory explained how to dress pop stars in different outfits or instruct half-naked Love Islanders on flirting in their speedos.
Thankfully, Rory moves on to prove that he’s a good writer and engaging storyteller. With an amiable approach, he weaves together an amusing narrative which holds the crowd’s attention. We’re introduced to Stuart and Zoe via a series of voice-overs (for which he’s called in a favour from an unnamed ‘real life’ couple). Stuart and Zoe are on their first date. We hear them answer a handful of ‘The 36 Questions’, make a connection, and fall in love. Rory paints the picture of this couple’s relationship through relatable enough scenarios but, sadly, their personalities don’t make them particularly appealing for the listener. Stuart’s a scientist who takes a methodical, and rather dull, approach to life. Meanwhile, Zoe is a more heart-on-her-sleeve literary agent whose want in life ought to be more than the excitement of ordering a free mattress trial every three months. Hearing intermittent dialogue from Stuart and Zoe, in flashbacks on their first date, helps to break up Rory’s monologue and animate the characters but, sadly, there really isn’t much meat to bring to life.
The intimate Cinema Room at the Banshee Labyrinth lends itself well for purpose as the crowd takes turns to select the next action for our lovers from the screen behind Rory. We’re promised that there are alternate endings and, ultimately, how we interpret what happens – happy or sad – is left up to us to decide. Rory’s explored whether there is be more to the perfect match than answering hypothetical situations. (Yes is the obvious answer.) The use of modern tech makes for an unusual approach to storytelling but, unless perhaps we were rigged up to vote via an app live in the room, it all felt somewhat redundant. This is a Free Fringe show and, as such, no-one expects an entirely polished piece of theatre. Overall, Rory O’Keeffe delivers an enjoyable love story to start your afternoon at the Fringe.
Title: Rory O’Keeffe: The 37th Question Venue: Banshee Labyrinth (Cinema Room) Dates: 4-26 August Time: 1:20pm Duration: 55 minutes Entry: Free (donations) Info: www.edfringe.com