There are a sickening amount of couples in the audience at the performance of In Fidelity I attend. As the happily married and the shyly dating hold hands throughout, giggling and cooing, all singletons are reluctantly drawn up onstage. There are ten of us including only one man, who is a foot shorter than me and twice my age. This is not, I think, going to be where I find the one.
Rob Drummond wants to understand love, what it is, how it works, and why it often doesn’t. He deconstructs the idea of guilt, trying to find scientific explanations for cheating. But first, he needs a couple to play with.
The lonely, broken-hearted or perhaps just happily single selection of us onstage have to play a yes/no game. We move to opposite sides of the stage in answer to simple questions, Drummond trying to separate two from the rest. The questions begin to reveal that In Fidelity is based on a fairly traditional, heterosexually-biased, monogamous idea of relationships. He asks a question about our sexual orientation but with a yes/no answer, there’s no space to say ‘both’ or ‘neither’, with the lack of a third space reinforcing the idea of the ‘other’. Particularly for a show that explores modern ways of dating, it wouldn’t be difficult to alter a question slightly or provide a more welcome attitude to a wider scope of relationships.
Eventually, a couple is selected from the pickings onstage – who actually happen to be on their first date already – and thankfully I’m allowed to take my seat. Drummond performs as a slightly muted Paddy McGuinness. Asking the audience at times to reveal very personal things about themselves, his manner is not quite gentle enough to allow for this level of intrusiveness. Though the show is in a game-show format, sections are so scripted that there’s a feeling that what you say doesn’t matter as the show will go on regardless. The energy and pace depend on the chemistry or awkwardness of the chosen couple, but they feel like extras when the show should revolve around them. Not enough weight is put on their answers, nor enough genuine concern in Drummond’s responses to them. He repeatedly brings the show back to himself under the guise of talking about others.
Perhaps this is acceptable though, because Drummond’s personal investment into his exploration of infidelity plays with fire, and is the most exciting part of the production. Though happily married, he explores online dating. “It’s for research,” he insists, as he gets closer to the flames.
In Fidelity is entertaining, if predictable, and at times our sort-of-already-couple check in with each other in a genuinely heart-warming way, making even the most cynical in the audience melt a little. Drummond taps into our fascination of other people, allowing us to watch the pair throughout the show. It almost intrudes the fun of watching their natural awkwardness as he makes them do role play, or pauses their conversation to explain Darwin’s evolutionary theories of love. The set-up of In Fidelity almost works, and it asks fascinating questions about love, relationships and loyalty, of the couple onstage, of the audience and of Drummond himself. Trust is a tricky thing.