Conor Burke’s Sophie, Ben and Other Problems sees two young people delivering a talk about themselves, their relationship and, not surprisingly, “other problems”. The premise of the play is as follows: the young couple are aiding their friend, whose university dissertation is based on millennial relationships, by breaking the fourth wall and giving us, the audience, a lecture illustrating what it means to be in love in 2017. The performance was engaging, funny, surprisingly emotional and well delivered by Queen Mary’s very own Conor Burke, playing Ben, and Dylan Morris, playing Sophie.
Sophie and Ben are a young couple discussing the problems within their relationship and reflecting on key moments in its course. They are a conventional 21st century couple who met on a night out in a smoking area, hit it off and have been inseparable ever since. Their tale is told through a series of well executed flash backs, where lighting is used effectively to illustrate the past and the present and the actors subtly change their attitude to each other depending on the time period. Though they performed on a very simple small stage, the duo made good use of their limited space by using the simple prop of a bench for most of their flashbacks, and remaining stationary for most of their story.
There is clear chemistry between the pair. They are the kind of polar opposites that attract; Sophie is sassy and cool whereas Ben is obviously awkward, but in a sweet way. Watching them interact was funny and uplifting. The quick snappy dialogue sparked laughter across the audience as we observed the all too relatable bickering between the protagonists. Despite the occasional cheesy exchange between the couple (at one point Sophie starts singing a slow song in a night club, which doesn’t seem very realistic as how on Earth would Ben hear her over the music?), the conversation is realistic and reminds me of the weird conversations I have had with random guys on a night out. The cheesiness is only to be expected in a play about millennials; they fit the youthful cliché of loving The Perks of Being a Wallflower and other indie stereotypes, so I guess the occasional cringey dialogue is a given. It was easy to brush this aside, though. Their “lecture” was well delivered, incorporating believable nerves and realistic side comments on what the other was saying which made them seem like they really were your average millennial couple. In fact, for a moment (albeit a very small moment) I was confused and actually thought I was sitting in on a lecture.
So, all in all, I would call the play a success. With an ending that left me feeling emotional and pulled at the audience’s heartstrings, I found myself truly captivated by Sophie’s problems, Ben’s problems, and all the other problems in between.