Culture Critic Rebecca Sibley reviews Sadie Clark’s Algorithms at Shout Festival, a tragicomic one woman play described as a ‘Bisexual Bridget Jones’ for the online generation
Hailed as ‘a bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation’ and ‘this year’s Fleabag’ at Edinburgh Fringe, Algorithms tells the uplifting story of a woman’s journey towards self-acceptance. After enjoying a sold-out run in Edinburgh, Sadie Clark’s one-woman play came to Birmingham’s Old Joint Stock Theatre this weekend as part of SHOUT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture.
Algorithms’ protagonist is a 29-year-old bisexual Londoner called Brooke. She’s lovable in all her idiosyncrasies: the type of character who accidentally syncs her nudes to her work email address, enjoys drinking a whole bottle of wine and dancing like nobody’s watching, and treats trawling through dating apps for ‘the one’ as her unpaid side-job. From candlelit restaurants to Hackney warehouse parties, Brooke is searching for the romance she grew up watching in her favourite rom-coms, but it doesn’t seem to exist in the modern world.
In her writing and performance of Brooke, Sadie Clark is witty, candid and engaging. Her performance of a range of accents and characters is totally immersive, making the conversations feel more like dialogue than reported speech. With her friendly and conversational manner, Clark draws the audience into her story, evoking laughs and gasps at all the right moments in her sharp-witted play.
Algorithms is particularly interested in modern technology, specifically the dating app algorithms that inspired its title, as well as the FOMO-inducing effects social media. Despite this emphasis on tech, the performance is subtle in its own technical elements: the lighting and music are effective but not overdone, the props are minimal, and much of the dialogue takes place while Clark mimes typing on a phone with the familiar ‘tap-tap-tap’ noise as accompaniment. The synchronisation of beeping notifications and typing sounds with the performance is well-polished, emphasising Brooke’s feelings of isolation behind the ignored messages and disappointing dating app matches.
More up-to-date than Bridget Jones but less devastating than Fleabag, Algorithms finds a feel-good middle-ground. In a world that seems to demand weight-loss, waxing and setlling down before you’re thirty, Sadie Clark’s play succeeds in presenting a blueprint for female self-acceptance. It concludes with Brooke at her 30th birthday party, finally happy to being single and singing badly into a Hello Kitty karaoke machine. Though the play pays homage to Brooke’s favourite rom coms like The Notebook and Notting Hill, its ending offers a profound counterpoint to their heteronormative assumption that happiness can be only achieved when you find ‘the one’. Brooke may not have been able to write an algorithm for love, but Clark has found the perfect formula for this fun, queer and heart-warming play.