Loneliness & Other Adventures, Drayton Arms Theatre – Kensington

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From the tainted rear view mirror of middle age, it’s tempting to sneer at Mollie Semple’s one-woman show; a Fleabag inspired trawl though millennial misanthropy. What ails Mollie? Well, at 21 – yes twenty fuckin’ one – she’s worried that the confident seventeen year-old of yore, the girl she was an unimaginably long time ago, has been replaced by a perpetual lonely heart who suffers the indignity of, and I hope you’re sitting down because this is truly ghastly – periodic attention from the opposite sex, casual intercourse, and an as yet uncultivated ability to forge and maintain a lasting relationship.

One feels for Mollie. She’s confident enough to pour her heart out to strangers (along with tea), affable, smiley, and at her physical peak, her life still all potential and possibility. This is Shakespearian levels of tragedy, folks. But angst is relative of course, so stop taking the piss and accept that a few bad dates and a lot of wasted nights at the dehumanising online meat market that is Tinder, dealing with unchecked libidos and social retardation (the experience is even worse for women, apparently), has precipitated a full-blown existential crisis.

Unbeknownst to her, the future’s sitting in the audience, tempted to shout back, “what’s your hurry?” For if Mollie thinks it’s agony to have got to the ripe ol’ age of 21 and not found love, imagine what she’d think if she knew it was possible to reach double those years and still not be loved, even in the abstract, by anyone. Not even a cat.

What would she say if she learned that in the rush to find a life partner, long before you’re fully formed either emotionally or psychologically, it’s possible to pick a catastrophe on two legs – a dud you’d reject outright if you met them ten years later, and have that idiot, inclined as they are to unfavourably compare you to an imaginary Disney archetype, eat up your best years, discard you at 30, just past the point your social circle has reduced to a size that precludes meeting anyone else – all other avenues for the same, college and university, a distant memory – and leave you homeless, penniless and worthless; doomed to navigate the rest of your miserable life alone – bereft and grief-stricken. Kinda puts being dumped by a bloke you’ve known for four dates into perspective, doesn’t it?

Thus, to fully appreciate this good-natured play-as-therapy session, and to empathise with the likable girl at its heart, who not unreasonably hopes for a fulfilling match, one has to remember what it was like to be 21 – to hit that milestone and feel, wrongly, disastrously, that progress in one’s private life meant finding a partner for life’s long journey, though the destination was not yet known.

Mollie made this reviewer recall that some of his friends were so intent on shackling themselves to someone and giving up on self-exploration and experimentation and the long ascent to self-knowledge, that they allied themselves with whatever limited parent-patterned conformist signaled a similar wish to settle, and that said pals are still wedded to the same awful people, their lives a busted flush – their fate decided far too early – wine opened on delivery instead of left to mature in the cellar.

So relax, Mollie – it’s all ahead of you. You’re thoughtful, educated – you’ve got your own one-woman show; life’s already decided that bar a disaster, or impossible to predict run of bad luck, you’ll be absolutely fine.

If you see this show, tell her, would you?

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