How do you define love? It’s a word that we use frequently, but one that we struggle to pin down and describe – or at least the audience at In Fidelity did. Is love elusive? Special to each individual person? Rob Drummond (writer and ‘host’) describes himself as believing in love, but sometimes not sure if he is really feeling it. This is followed by murmurs of agreement from the audience. But if we don’t really know what love is, how do we look for it?
In Fidelity has three key strands. First, the story of the couple Drummond has randomly selected from the audience who go on their ‘first date’ onstage in front of us. Second, the marriage of Charles and Emma Darwin, which was impacted considerably by Charles’ work, and lastly Drummond’s own marriage which might be showing the first cracks after his foray into online dating for research.
The first strand, the ‘Blind Date’-style setup, sounds a little gimmicky and the set compounds this, with its garish logo and projections, Drummond squeezing onto the sofa beside the two nervous volunteers. But this actually works well as a bit of humour and light relief to go alongside the intense scrutiny of our basic human inclination towards relationships and love. We see that Drummond’s brain reacts in exactly the same way to an image of his wife as an image of Anna Kournikova. In physical terms, it would seem he feels the same about both women. So what of our unique and special love? We watch two people start to fall in love onstage; therefore love can be manufactured, it would seem. But at the same time our abstract ideas of love begin to erode, the first sparks of a blossoming new love still seem as magical as ever.
Although it is only two members of the audience who fully take part in the experiment, every person in the room is immersed in the experience. We are asked to indicate whether or not we consider ourselves to be in a relationship, whether or not we have cheated or been cheated upon. By encouraging everyone to give to the performance, even if it is something as small as a raised hand, a deep sense of empathy is created. We are all implicated in the discussion and the date onstage; so we re-evaluate our own ideas of love and trust under a new light.
Despite being frequently awkward, sometimes uncomfortable and occasionally a little depressing In Fidelity is a major achievement. It is a fun and fascinating piece of experimental theatre, pushing the boundaries of our conceptions of love while, ultimately, being a great love letter to love itself.