The two I can recall are: do you like horror films and would you travel abroad alone? Others have put forward the idea that through answering a particular list of questions together two people can be nudged towards falling in love.
Maybe we need such prompts because the art of conversation is dying, and it is hard to find intimacy in a swipe left, swipe right dating culture. ZU-UK’s Binaural Dinner Date—first produced at Theatre Royal Stratford East—returns to a new venue at Rich Mix in East London and tries to manipulate us into giving our hearts away through an hour’s worth of conversation and promptings delivered via headphones. You can go with a partner or the company will pair you with a stranger.
Participants at Binaural Dinner Date. Photo by Ludovic Des Cognets.
Played out in Rich Mix’s café space, which is temporarily transformed into a mock Italian restaurant featuring waiters and a menu of starter questions, the piece shows up the absurdities of dating rituals. It plays intelligently on the slightly surreal nature of the enterprise, not least when it throws out abortion and Brexit as suitable topics when the conversation flounders.
There is a feeling of being like animals in a zoo, a feeling exacerbated by the fact that Rich Mix’s vast plate windows make it possible for those outside to peer in and watch what we are doing and us to see the outside world on its way home from work, at play and—in some cases—clearly in love.
The final 10 minutes plays on this cleverly, as does the show’s technological tricks that take what you have said in the apparent intimacy of the date and reframe it. To some degree the piece highlights how we present ourselves to the world and to a potential lover, and how we all perform a version of ourselves. Particularly in a dating setting.
I’m deliberately not giving too much away in terms of what actually happens because I reckon that would spoil the experience. But it uses games, questions, instructions and lots of eye contact to try and get us to know our partner better. It is aware that it hinders as much as its helps. One of the things it ultimately proves is that there is probably no magic formula for finding someone else attractive and interesting and if you really want to get to know someone there is no substitute for a proper conversation.
Apparently, some have indeed become couples after experiencing the show, but I’d be inclined to think of it as a nifty theatrical version of one of those on-line couples’ quizzes. It may not ultimately offer great insight or deliver true love, but its loads of fun.
Binaural Dinner Date runs until 2 March. Many performances are already sold out so if you want to book, you'd best be quick! You can buy tickets here