Review by Giddy Pillai
It’s 11pm on a February evening in the beer garden of Newtown institution the Bank Hotel. Emma (writer/performer Megan Bennetts) is alone with a glass of red wine – an hour away from her 30th birthday and three hours deep in waiting for a Tinder date who she is determined to like. She’d normally have higher standards, she assures you, but there’s a lot riding on this night. You see, this is her very last chance to lose her virginity before she enters her dirty thirties. Trying to explain why she hasn’t got it over with yet is awkward enough at 29, and she is certain that tomorrow this problem will immediately become exponentially worse. Resolving to wait it out for one more glass of wine, she pours herself a large one, pulls up a chair and leans in, and you settle in for a good old fashioned deep and meaningful with your new bestie for the night.
Making an hour long monologue feel like a genuine conversation is no easy thing, but Bennetts manages it effortlessly. Emma is captivating, endearing, hilarious, charming, hopeful, jaded, vulnerable and utterly real, and I hang off every word as she meanders seamlessly from topic to topic (like the best deep chats always do). I smile knowingly as she unveils, in granular detail, her well-oiled system for appraising the men she meets on the apps. I wince in recognition as she describes awkward encounters with a string of almost-lovers past. I’m warmed by her anecdotes about her best friends, who make me think of my own. I want to fight the man who clearly doesn’t appreciate the beautiful, funny, sensitive, human marvel that she is, but who has the audacity to periodically slide into her DMs anyway. I feel her hopes, insecurities and anxieties in my gut.
Losing It is much more than just a string of anecdotes from a stranger with a secret in a beer garden. It contains deep reflections on some of the messiest parts of being human. How do we stay open to other people without being eaten alive in the process? Where does social pressure come from, and why is it so powerful? How do we know when we should bend to fit in, and when we should resist to avoid betraying the most fundamental parts of ourselves? Bennetts integrates these themes seamlessly into a script that’s so naturally written I barely notice it’s a script at all. I never feel like I’m being asked to think; it’s drawn out of me in the breaths between belly laughs. Bennetts has a rare and remarkable ability as a performer to make big emotional shifts in a way that feels natural and utterly human, and in this show she draws on that ability masterfully to showcase the emotional rollercoaster that most of us so often try to hide behind a cool façade. But again, this isn’t something I think about until long after I’ve left the theatre: for the hour I’m in there, I simply and genuinely enjoy meeting Emma.
Bennetts is supported by a stellar creative team who work together to make this show more than the sum of its parts. Victor Kalka’s set conjures up instant nostalgia for anyone who’s frequented the Bank. Adam Buncher brings impeccable comic timing to a voiceover role as the resident trivia host blaring over the beer garden loudspeakers. Christopher Starnawski’s sound design is so natural and so well integrated that on more than one occasion when Emma’s phone goes off I rummage in my bag in a panic thinking I’ve forgotten to switch mine on silent. Pacing and use of space are perfect thanks to director Nisrine Amine. Losing It is a masterclass on how much theatre can really shine when the simple things are done really, really well.
As I walked into the theatre I thought this might be a show about a very millennial experience, made by and for millennials. It’s so much more than that. When you take something really personal and explore it really honestly, things that are universal have a way of rising to the surface. My theatre date was my 71 year old mother, who loved it so much that she left the building excitedly urging me to tell all my friends to go along. She’s right: Losing It is a show I’d recommend enthusiastically to anyone. Go along if you get a chance – I promise you won’t regret it.
This review was written at a preview performance.