Love Bites at the Southwark Playhouse featured five short one-act plays on the theme of modern love and dating. These contemporary love stories cover the spectrum of relationships from one-night-stands to deep friendship in a charmingly familiar and lighthearted way.

The first piece was Like it Never Happened, a play about a drunken pair of conference-goers getting frisky in a hotel room. The trouble is that they're both married, and in the space of ten minutes, both flip back and forth between thinking “nobody will ever find out” and “what would my wife/husband think?” Hedydd Dylan as Tina is hilarious as she switches from drunken, lusty flirtation to tearful regret, stomping and stumbling comically with her tights half-off. Sam Phillips plays Rob, a fairly average guy, but his performance highlights the opportunistic quirks of male behaviour and the tragicomedy of a failed erotic encounter.

Down in One was an endearing piece about a young man declaring himself to Elle - a barmaid who feels inadequate around the more successful party-goers in the next room. Ollie’s proposal to take her to a rave in a warehouse is laughable but sweet, and the rest of the piece revolves around Elle’s decision on whether or not to go out with him. While both Hannah James and Matt Granados were charming and acted well, this piece felt just a little too long: it’s a simple story, and nothing truly surprising occurs to liven it up.

Sarah and Sarah switches the tone from romance to friendship: here, two old friends from up north - both named Sarah - reunite at a fancy cocktail party in London, but the Sarah who left to pursue her career is now acting posher than you’d expect of a girl from Bradford. There are some great bits of Northern humour in this one: Sarah Ovens points out a posh banker who most certainly does not work next to a Greggs, and Sarah number 2 (Rosie Wyatt) retorts, unimpressed, “Well, that doesn’t sound very convenient!” Things take a more serious turn when Andy shows up (James Northcote), and posh Sarah is reminded that there is no greater love than friendship and family - a tender and heartwarming piece.

Kentish Town by contrast was a little more unsettling and snappy. Sam Phillips returns to play a man who recently left his partner for another woman, but she (Hannah James) has broken her promise to tell her boyfriend. Their arguments and Sam’s gradual realisation that she wasn’t serious about leaving her boyfriend for him are compelling to watch. Of all the short plays of the evening, this piece was the perfect length to sustain the tension during the pair’s short encounter.

Definitely the quirkiest of the bunch was Blind Date, a one-woman show by Ziella Bryars, which ended the night with a generous dash of dark humour. Helen Manders plays a hyper-talkative, off-beat woman on a date with an unseen man, and slowly reveals herself as a blind date’s worst nightmare. Manders is perfect in this role, and made this slightly insane character both hilarious and likeable.

While they don’t set out to perform groundbreaking or daring material, and the stagings are relatively simple with basic props and lighting, Love Bites are short and sweet crowd-pleasers, and their appeal lies in the fact that all the awkwardness, shame and lust of these love stories are well-known to everyone.

The Best of The Love Bites Plays, at Southwark PlayhouseKate Mason reviews The Best of Love Bites at the Southwark Playhouse.3