Sam Coulson’s Love Lab is a punchy show telling the story of two strangers on a laborious mission to forge a meaningful connection in a world obsessed with screens, image and fakery.
Coulson’s script is inspired by an experiment – which became famously known as “The 36 Questions” – conducted in the 60’s in which Professor Arthur Aron managed to get two complete strangers to fall in love. In this version of events, the experiment is called Love Lab: a TV dating show broadcast to an international audience. Contestants Livia and Perry find themselves in a sealed white room, with only beans to sustain them and an intrusive Big-Brother-style narrator determined to make them reveal their deepest secrets to each other.
Harriet Barrow is a convincing Livia, an image-obsessed blogger who’s been trying every opportunity she can to find love. She carries palpable disdain for fellow contestant Perry (Michael Rivers), a technophobe country boy who entered the show in a drunken haze. While at the kick off the course of true love seems to have diverted past the pair entirely, their chemistry is what makes the show so compelling and the two actors carry the script forward with an enormous amount of charm and energy.
Love Lab is one of the few fringe shows I’ve seen which makes real use of sound and lighting: four colour-changing strip lights box in the ceiling bringing an edge to the minimal set. The sound design provides a brilliant cover for scene changes (which can be deathly for a short show), keeping up the energy and audience attention through transitions. While the script was intriguing, Love Lab could have done with more time to properly play out the ending which came a little out of the blue and has the potential to be developed into a much more interesting conversation.
This ‘black mirror’ representation of modern love and dating was frighteningly close to life and a brilliant reminder of the importance of maintaining our honesty and humanity in a society that doesn’t place much worth in either.