With the UK once again in lockdown it’s no surprise that more people have turned to dating apps to try and find ‘the one’. Michelle Hudson’s timely new digital show Manimals explores the world of online dating – complete with its ups and downs – and combines theatre, gaming and performance art to great effect.
Manimals is an entertaining one-woman show which also stars Hudson, and it takes the form of a workshop. Having tired of the traditional dating apps but still determined to meet her soul mate, Michelle is here to present a new app she’s created to level the playing field, help users find love and above all, making dating fun.
As with most workshops, audience participation is key to get the most out of the experience. Ahead of the performance viewers are directed to the Manimals ‘app’ where they have to create a basic dating profile, selecting the animal they’d swipe right for (dogs and cats aren’t allowed) and stating what would make them swipe left. When the show starts the reason for this becomes apparent and the audience soon learns that dating is a points-based game, with the higher earning players getting better matches.
Hudson and director Flo O’Mahony do a great job of holding the audience’s attention with the use of pre-recorded clips and differing camera angles to give some variety. There’s plenty to keep viewers entertained during the show, from brief breakout rooms to meet another audience member (it sounds more excruciating than it is), games to help Michelle prepare for her date and even the opportunity to give her life advice (in return for extra points of course). Throughout the show she tells the story of her search for love, with the odd interruption from boss Mikey (also played by Hudson). It’s about midway through that audience members finally get the chance to experience her app for themselves in a particularly entertaining segment with a race to earn more points by swiping right on pictures of exotic animals (credit must go to Game Dramaturg & Designer Amy Strike for creating a fun and realistic game).
Manimals is a fun and quirky show, if a little bizarre near to the end, and with a little more development and trimming of the final scenes, it could be a great production. It’s certainly not a show for younger viewers, not only due to a scene with Michelle and a little purchase from InvisibleBoyfriend.com, but also to a live scene on Chatroulette where anything can happen (thankfully on the night of reviewing all encounters were fully clothed!), and audience members are encouraged to wear headphones if they share their homes with anyone else. Though audience participation is encouraged it isn’t compulsory, the relaxed format of the show means that if you want to keep your cameras turned off, you can.
Manimals has a lot to say, and this show is sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever subjected themselves to the world of online dating. It’s a very interesting comment on the pressures put on single people to find love, and also how some people try and hide behind a mask even when putting themselves out there on dating sites. Tinder meets Black Mirror in this entertaining and innovative production, which will certainly make you think before swiping right again.
To book tickets for Manimals Canadian tour from 5-14 March visit https://www.tift.ca/
Photo credit: Michelle Hudson