Georgie Grier’s one-woman play Sunsets has a unique hook: the play follows Denver, a podcast host and lover of romantic comedies as she records the final live episode of her podcast where she tries to find her happily ever after by living her life like it’s a romantic comedy. In this way, we the audience also become a part of the story as we double as the audience for the “live podcast recording”.
It’s a clever concept, if one that sometimes fails to live up to its full potential. At just over an hour long, it’s a fairly short piece and moves at such a frenetic pace that it could be hard to keep track of exactly what was going on. Sunsets has some good points to make about romantic comedies and the way these types of films have tinged our view of romance, but these deeper themes are somewhat blurred beneath the frenetic pace of the show and at times, it definitely felt like the show could have used a little more breathing room to give the audience a chance to fully appreciate what Grier is trying to do here, particularly when the show takes a darker turn towards the end.
Georgie Grier is an exceptionally talented performer and she has such a great range as an actress: she channels Denver’s charm, overexuberance and awkwardness perfectly but she also delivers the emotional moments of the piece so incredibly well, and the moments where Denver’s mask starts to slip were my favourites of the show because Grier delivers them with such heart and vulnerability that you really feel for her. In the wrong hands Denver could come across as annoying, but Grier (also the writer) knows just how to pitch her performance so that we as an audience are charmed instead of irritated and this heightens the impact of the more emotional moments of the piece.
Grier’s writing is funny and her exploration of romantic comedy tropes is well done, but her script suffers from a lack of focus and an over-complexity. The plot is overstuffed with too many ideas: we have recaps of the previous podcasts episode leading to the final big “Grand Gesture”, fake ad spots, a convoluted back story for the podcast, flashbacks to Denver’s childhood, it’s all a bit too much. Giving more focus to one of these elements in the plot rather than jumping chaotically between them all would have made for a more streamlined and less convoluted show: the show really shines when it gives time to Denver’s development so more focus on that would have made for a stronger show.
The ending really left me slightly baffled and with a slightly sour taste in my mouth. The show does give some hints as to what it might be building towards and it’s clear from pretty early on that this will not have your classic romantic comedy ending, but I still felt kind of taken aback by the ending and it felt more of a twist for the sake of having a twist than a natural ending for the show’s narrative. It was a very macabre note to leave the audience with and again because of the sheer pace of the show, it felt like we didn’t really have time to absorb it, the whole final sequence felt very rushed and instead of ending with the sense of catharsis that it seemed like the piece was going for, it left you with more of a confused “What?”. The beautifully done lighting and Georgie Grier’s excellent delivery should have made for a beautiful and cathartic final moment, but it just comes at you so fast that you barely have any time to absorb it.
Grier has certainly landed on a very interesting idea here, but it’s one that could use a little more fine-tuning. There’s definitely something to be said for exploring the way that romantic comedies twist our view of romance, and the podcast format is an interesting one, but the script could use a bit of reworking. If the plot was more streamlined and the story (and the audience) was given a little more time to breathe, then Grier could have a really beautiful and poignant show that interrogates romantic comedies in a really fun and interesting way. As it is, the show still feels somewhat like an early draft: it has the potential to be brilliant but at the moment feels too buried under the weight of all its ideas to reach that full potential.
Sunsets is on at the Seven Dials Playhouse till 30 September. Tickets can be found here.
Words by Jo Elliott
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