'This brilliantly executed show is a small miracle'
The Herald



Reviews for Tick My Box!


Karen Fricker, The Guardian
Saturday April 30, 2005

Tick My Box!
Draiocht Studio, Blanchardstown

Inis Theatre has transformed its hour-long Dublin fringe festival hit into a very entertaining full-evening touring production. At the suburban performance I attended, they had certainly found an ideal target audience: groups of thirtysomething women there to giggle and heckle as actors Iseult Golden and Carmel Stephens showed us the dirty underbelly of the world of speed-dating.

They arrive on stage as dating company organisers Siobhan and Seamus, directly addressing the audience and getting us ready for our speed dating sessions. Then the action becomes a series of quick-change transformations as they embody some two dozen love-seekers. They act out, not just their three minute primary encounters, but interplay in the bar, the toilets, and behind the scenes, as Siobhan and Seamus patrol the action and engage in some strained flirtation of their own.

It is a testament to Golden and Stephens' physical and emotional precision that the characters become instantly familiar, and part of the fun of the evening is the mounting complexity of the action - three different dating encounters woven together; four men bragging about their conquests in the space of a one-minute vignette. Their smart writing (with director, David Horan) also cuts directly to the humanity of each scene: the defensive single dad who lays his situation on the line way too quickly, and the savvy chick who gives him a lesson in manners (and ends up taking him home); the knives out interplay between a loathsome coquette and her much nicer friend; and, most touchingly, the pair who bond by baring scars from past relationships but then don't hook up because he realises he's still not over his ex.

The production even successfully touches on social issues like race (the toilet attendants are black) and class (a bitterly funny standoff between a southside snob and a working-class girl), and there's a teasingly queer subtext: we are never allowed to forget that these heterosexual encounters are being played out by two women.

Until Saturday. Box office: 353 1 855 2622. Then touring.


Luke Clancy, The Herald
October 2004.

"Make a date to see this 'miracle'."

It takes about five seconds of Tick My Box to realise that you are going to enjoy whatever precious moments you are lucky enough to spend with Iseult Golden and Carmel Stephens. Their bewitching comedy is one that will inspire love at first sight.

Taking as their starting point that valley of the shadow of darkness that is speed dating, the pair have created a fascinating show powered by brilliant performances and stuffed with well-buffed comic writing.

As performers, both Golden and Stephens have the pure craft required to conjure up a fascinatingly three-dimensional character at lightning speed and, then, hop lithely on to another.

But just to prove how thoroughly well-conceived the whole venture is, the pair have built a perfect home for these skills in the fractured against-the-clock conversations of a speed-dating event.

With the help of their director, David Horan, they introduce us to a rich menagerie of lost souls, all hunting with varying degrees of commitment, to find a mate via a series of snatched conversations.

There is the recently escaped abused wife from Coolock and her less than ideal partner, a snobbish ad man whose upturned nose telegraphs his disdain.
Then we meet the nervous potter whose big hands are ogled admiringly by more than one of his potential partners; and the woman who earns 50K and fears she'll never find anyone who measures up to her.

But no matter what character is chatting us up at any moment, fresh observations will be jostling for our attention with great gags.

This brilliantly executed show is a small miracle.


Donald Clarke, The Irish Times
Thurs, Sept 23, 2004

Tick My Box!
Bewley's Café Theatre

What extraordinary things Carmel Stephens and Iseult Golden do with the dynamics of posture and the politics of personal space in this rollicking crowd-pleaser from Inis Theatre Company. Playing the two organisers and all the guests, male and female, at a speed-dating evening, the actors, who devised the show alongside director David Horan, convey surprising depths of personality through just the inclination of a shoulder, the tilt of a chin or the restlessness of a lascivious eye. At one stage, shifting between characters for the hundredth time, Golden slumps so dramatically in her seat that she appears to morph from Julianne Moore into someone who looks like he might smell strongly of congealed fat. Tick My Box! is (understandably considering the brief) a tad disjointed. But it is rare that one gets to see so many moving and funny stories - the suppressed passion between the organisers is particularly poignantly played - crammed together into such a neat package.

Runs until October 9th


Simon Carswell, Sunday Business Post

Theatre: Tick My Box! Directed by David Horan, Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Grafton Street, until October 9.

Tick My Box! encapsulates all that is good about the Dublin Fringe Festival. Slick, snappy and entertaining, this two-hander about the new phenomenon of speed-dating is a gem.

Iseult Golden and Carmel Stephens play Siobhan and Seamus, the organisers of a speed-dating night, and a host of other mostly desperate characters eager to meet someone special (or not).

There's Sebastian, aka Jock, the boorish Scot who's hoping to get lucky; Garrett, the cynical advertising executive from Ballsbridge; Nancy, a hospital admissions secretary from Coolock with a troubled past; Patrick, the Canadian film lecturer who is faced with a spine-tingling encounter, and Mark, the serial speed-dater who resorts to alcohol to meet the right woman.

The play's strength - aside from the performances from Golden and Stephens - is in its ability to examine the inner demons tormenting the characters and driving them to speed-dating to meet their soul mates.

The plot slips between comedy, poignancy and the darkest of subject matters easily and, at times, combines all three expertly.

Devised by Golden, Stephens and director, David Horan, Tick My Box! is another strong production from the innovative Inis Theatre company.

Performances start at 9pm, no show Mondays, Sunday performance at 7pm


Roberta Gray, The Sunday Tribune

Having experienced first-hand and written about, the phenomenon of speed-dating, it was with interest and slight wariness that I approached Inis Theatre Company's Tick My Box!, a two-hander comedy on the subject currently running in Bewleys Café Theatre. Its fertile ground for a drama, alright, but would they be able to capture just precisely how funny and cringe-making the experience is; would they pinpoint the exact mixture of confidence and vulnerability that marks the speed-dater, the potent mixture of the comic and the - let's face it - tragic?

Within seconds of Iseult Golden's appearance onstage, however, as Siobhan, the hostess for the evening, any doubts flew out of my mind, as I was drawn into the excellent and truly hilarious characterisation. No sooner is Siobhan joined on stage by host Seamus (Carmel Stephens) than the buzzers are going and the actresses whirl into a flurry of speed-dating, snapping from one character to the next as they portray an entire roomful of people, both male and female, each with their own specific background and reasons for being there.

The structure of the play is a fairly standard one, but around it is built a work that sustains both belly laughs and pathos throughout its 75 minute time (no interval): you genuinely start to root for certain characters and really hope they'll meet the good guy/girl and not fall into the snare of the pretentious film lecturer or the vacuous society girl. Shrieks of laughter from the audience indicated that we've all known these characters and been in these situations, speed-dating or otherwise.

The success of Inis Theatre's method - the two actors and director David Horan develop the scripts together - is evident in Golden and Stephens's deft handling of the very fast-moving dialogue. Both are superb actresses, and this is the perfect showcase for their talents: from their physical movements to their accents, they inhabit each character wholeheartedly, and jump from one to the next with breath-taking skill. But there's no empty showing-off involved: this is warm-hearted and totally unprententious stuff. I'm not a betting lady, but this will surely be a hit: it deserves it.


Susan Conley, www.wow.ie/review
24th August, 2004

One wonders what an evolutionary psychologist would make of speed dating. It certainly seems to be evident that the desire to match up - mate, in all senses of the term - is so overwhelmingly strong that the notion of attempting to engage with multiple prospective partners in a paltry amount of time seems like a workable notion. Under these circumstances, natural selection appears to take over, and indeed, only the fittest survive.

Inis Theatre have devised an hilarious, thoughtful, and utterly identifiable piece in which co-artistic directors Iseult Golden and Carmel Stephens, with director David Horan, have created an impressive array of characters, from all walks of life, who have bought into the notion that looking for love isn't really that much different from hunting up a pair of shoes: maybe you have to try on twenty pairs before you find the ones you like. Unfortunately, in life, as opposed to retail, the shoes have to like you back.

Siobhan (Golden) and Seamus (Stephens) are the Tick My Box! facilitators, and are the framing romance of the piece, a well chosen conceit in that it shows us that, often, long term proximity isn't much of a help in the love stakes. It seems so simple from where we're sitting: for God's sake, man, ask the woman out! Watching them struggle, intuiting that they've had a long association fraught with vibes neither have the confidence to act on, puts the speed dating situation into perspective. Maybe you could get lucky right off the bat, and skip over all those hesitancies and uncertainties; conversely, you could also act out of an endless series of knee-jerk reactions, the ones designed to prevent you from ever knowing anyone, and kid yourself into thinking 'at least I was trying'.

The speed daters are, initially, as broadly stroked as any stereotype, but the speed dating system is set up for stereotypes, and it's fascinating how quickly we know who everyone is, how finely tuned are our societal filters: John is a nerd, Teresa is slightly off somehow, Gareth is a stuck-up wanker, Nancy is trying too hard, Frank has potential, that Scottish guy is insane, Claudia is a complete and total bitch.

The subtleties of relationship are teased out through the connections the men make as they check in with one another, and between the cliques of women who have come to the event in pairs and groups. Not all of the scenaria are lighthearted, however, and here Inis show a narrative maturity that they handle perfectly.

The women also show us the difference between simply 'acting' like a person, and 'enacting' personality, which is made up of more than that initial stereotypical impulse. Posture and gesture are equally as important as accent and speech pattern, and Golden and Stephens have it down in spades: every persona is a fully embodied person, from poor John's hunch to Claudia's arrogantly jutting chin, from Gareth's flat, dismissive gaze to Nancy's brittle smile. We recognize these people, in others, in ourselves, with the added dramatic function of watching the women play all the parts themselves. It's always funny to watch one gender portray another, yet when men 'do' women, it only seems silly, a layer of handbag and falsies. When Golden and Stephens portray the men, the humour comes from a deep observation of the Other, free of artificial facial hair and loaded with acuity and resonance.

The evolutionary psychologist might very well agree with Seamus, who thinks that there are some people who will always be alone, and would put it down to a case of non-adaptation, genes that really need to get out of the pool, and all that. Watching this cast of believable characters acting out the human paradox of fragility and resilience, one reckons it's something more than that, and that despite all evidence to the contrary, it would be a shame to give up hope.
Connection counts, and the drive towards that, whether to propagate the species or to simply have someone in your life who matters, is at the heart of the rather heartless speed dating process, and Inis have creatively and entertainingly illuminated that, and given us much food for thought.

© WOW! 2004-08-24



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