Rom-Coms. Stereotypical. Predictable. Formulaic. Loved or loathed.
With ‘Actually, Love’, GOYA Theatre explore the tropes of rom-coms in a refreshing manner through the eyes of Alex (Sam Woof, also the writer of the piece) and Stevie (Jordan Broatch) as they question both how the genre works and their own relationship with each other.
Alex is a struggling songwriter who has been told to just write a love song, if only it was that easy, and Stevie is an actor who upon returning from America, is down to the final two for the role of a leading man in a new rom-com. They meet in a recording studio, and through Alex helping Stevie to rehearse for the audition, they revisit the past and contemplate the future.
Woof’s writing here is razor sharp, funny, witty, relevant, and clever. Alex and Stevie are characters with depth, believability, and heart, and you root for them both. The smart storytelling allows the audience to unpick the love story for themselves as Stevie and Alex act out parts of stereotypical rom coms that in parts shadow their own story.
The comedy lies in how the pair laugh at must have plot points of romantic comedies; the ‘meet-cute’ in a pretty park, the overbearing mother, the hate turns to romance, the airport chase, and, of course, the gay best friend who exists purely to give the leading lady a makeover. These are all elements that we as the audience recognise and through the eyes of Alex and Stevie, we question just how ridiculous they are.
Music is marvellously used in multiple ways, to bring the characters together, to further pick at stereotypical movie trends and to give both Stevie and Alex a way in which to express themselves in ways that they may struggle to say to each other. The songs are a mixture of fun and heart-warming, with a fair few earworms that linger long after the performance is over.
As Alex, Woof presents a character who well and truly knows who they are and what they believe in, and they aren’t afraid to say it, even questioning Stevie’s decisions. Broatch’s Stevie is career driven, passionate about the art of acting with a soft heart under a seemingly tougher shell. They are sentimental and well meaning, contrasting Alex’s say it how it is attitude.
It is wonderful to see queer stories celebrated, and ‘Actually, Love’ is open, honest and welcoming. The relationship between Alex and Stevie isn’t approached as ground-breaking, isn’t designed to make a statement, there’s a sense of normality that feels refreshing, its love is love, it’s how it should be.
Whether you are a rom-com fan or just love a good story, ‘Actually, Love’ presents something new that is guaranteed to raise a smile and a laugh, and leave you with a spring in your step.