Despite its name, Take a Chance on Me owes nothing to a certain Swedish pop group. Instead, it tells of love the second time round for six singletons.
Roger Hall's play tries to emulate the 'modern love' feel of Sex and the City and Bridget Jones without restricting it to twenty-somethings. At a speed dating event, we meet a plumber, lawyer, teacher, pharmacist, ex-bank manager and a widow, all looking for a second chance, then we follow their journeys to their various unsatisfactory conclusions.
The problem is that the form Hall employs to explore these relationships is erratic to say the least. Each of the protagonists hold their parts while the two comperes-come-dating-coordinators take on the roles of every 'other ' character, whatever age or ethnicity.
Each scene is short, succinct and predictable, and we never get past the superficial with any single character. Take a Chance on Me tries to be a comedy but is not witty or well enough observed to earn this title, and allusions to one character's suicide attempt in the second act leave the audience confused as to the writer's intentions.
The actors, many of whom you'll recognise from television, make a colossal effort to lift the piece. Joe McGann manages to raise the odd chuckle as Liverpool-supporting, sexist plumber Brian. Helen Lederer is also endearing as the tearful primary teacher. And Alan Francis retains his dignity while playing every 'other' man from a teenage son to sixty-something Casanova through a medley of dodgy wigs and moustaches - quite an achievement.
Director Justin Greene uses a screen to title each of the scenes. This adds to the 'TV sketch show' feel as does Sarah-Jane McClelland's dull design, which uses a number of cushions like Tetris-type jigsaw pieces. These fit together to create any number of settings but are so squashy and unsturdy they serve solely to distract and annoy.
So, despite being mildly diverting, Take a Chance on Me doesn't really know where it belongs, part monologue, part TV sketch show. I wouldn't recommend you take a chance, it's not a safe bet.
- Hannah Kennedy