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Theatre Review: Mike and Virginia

The play Mike and Virginia is billed as a ‘rom com about rom coms’. Written by Kathryn Burnett and Nick Ward, it is the story about two university lecturers – Mike (Andrew Grainger) who specialises in monster movies, and Virginia (Laura Hill) who teaches classes looking at romantic movies. 

When we meet them for the first time, Mike is popular, witty, and somewhat conceited whereas Virginia is buttoned up, a little cynical, and in her own way, also somewhat conceited. They tease one another and engage in a series of one-upmanship games. Virginia’s best friend is Sally (Jodie Rimmer) an aspiring thespian with a talent for impropriety and over-acting. Harry (Stephen Papps) is a drain layer with a down to earth wit and Mike’s friend and confidant. Added to the mix is Melissa (Muna Arbon), a histrionic student who writes questionable poetry and who adds a certain amount of sexual tension into the mix. 

Being a romantic comedy there are misunderstandings, love triangles, false starts, frustrations, and plenty of laughs. 

Both Mike and Virginia have been hurt, and both are fairly cynical. But there is an attraction of sorts that builds. The question is, how will it all play out?

The play is a satire with a very witty and clever script that takes delight in poking fun at the genre of romantic comedy. But interestingly, it doesn’t actually disparage the concepts of love and romance. It is in fact a fairly emotional exploration of human desire and the range of emotions that accompany our relationships. At the heart of the story are two people who have been deeply hurt and have developed a pessimistic view of the world to protect themselves. 

This premise needs very good performances to balance the comedy with the drama, and both Granger and Hill manage to do this well. The two of them have a natural chemistry on stage whether it be as sparring partners trading insults, or at times, exploring something more romantic. 

The characters played by Rimmer, Papps, and Arbon provide some of the narrative of the play as well as being confidantes to Mike and Virgina. All three give great performances and provide some wonderful moments of comedy and pathos. 

In terms of staging, this entire production is stripped back to just a few chairs and a black backdrop. This works extremely well because this story is about the emotionally charged interplay between the characters and as an audience our attention is fixed solely on them and the sparkling dialogue.  

Mike and Virginia is a damn funny play that pokes fun at commercialised romance and the foibles of human relationships. At the same time it reassures us that love and romance actually matter. 

MIKE AND VIRGINIA 

31st August – 10th September 2023

Bookings and information 

Listen to an interview with Laura Hill about the play here:

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