John Muirhead and Mike Charlesworth's online dating comedy is a one-night stand of a play – fun, but not worth taking home to mum.
The somewhat cliquey tale of Primrose Hill daters and their intertwined love-lives, Baggage has four capable leads, and occasionally smart dialogue, but is too scrappily plotted and unpolished to show itself off to best effect.
While there's plenty to like in Charlie De'Ath's charmingly cynical dating maven and fashionista cougar (Suzanne Shaw), and their "just nice" bezzies Richard Mylan and Nicola Stapleton too, the format holds the drama back. The play's chronology is unpleasantly disjointed, relying heavily on flashbacks and -forwards to work in the various dates and encounters required to see how the characters get on with each other.
Each principal has a fulsome backstory and one, for no discernible dramatic reason, has terminal cancer - these fleetingly relevant background details never quite earn their keep. Online dating, at its core, is about people meeting people, and Baggage could have done with a little more of that instead of exposition.
The play is as much a series of dating sketches as a coherent narrative. Like the nifty factoids projected on-set during scene changes, and indeed like online hookups themselves, these scenes are fun and easy to digest.
The challenge, again as with dating, is to turn that series of moments into something coherent and consistent. Baggage is a tad too scatty for that. It can give you a fun evening, but don't go looking for love.
- Kieran Corcoran