Kate is a journalist who happens to be Jewish. She also happens to have a fatal attraction to bad men, both on the page (Heathcliff) and in the all too solid flesh (her ex is her promiscuous editor). Then there's Steve, a man who happens to be a feminist. His mum brought him up at Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp, while Kate's dad is an Israeli brought up in a refugee camp. She wants to be swept off her feet and into bed. Steve probably wants to sweep the floor for her first. Can they get (and keep) it together despite their prejudices, their predilections and their parents?
Ellis has huge fun turning our preconceptions on their heads, giving artisan baker Steve all the PC lines (his marriage proposal begins, “I want to apologise for the patriarchy”) and Kate the, er, balls.
With delicious wit, Ellis follows the pair's rocky road from meeting at a fancy dress party – she "symbol of female power" Wonder Woman, he "brilliant ethical hero" Robin Hood (the quotes are Steve's seals of approval - Kate's opening quip is "Are those ladders in your tights or stairways to heaven?") – to very cold wedding day feet at a yurt in Greenham, not the hall in Hendon favoured by Kate's dad, though there is a rabbi to bless the couple and a glass to stamp on.
Ellis zigzags back and forth in time with panache and Matthew Lloyd directs the dynamic duo of Sarah Daykin and Tom Berish with matching brio. Thanks to designer Carla Goodman's clever costumes and some artful velcro, they win our hearts with their onstage lightning changes, morphing into his mum and her dad and their exes in the wink of an eye, literally, as they revel in sharing the fun.
Ellis has some real points to make about those preconceptions and a fine skill at suggesting the emotional hinterlands of her lovers and their parents. And the icing on the cupcake (even though Steve doesn't approve of those either) is that it really works as a romantic night out, too.
By Judi Herman
Photos by Nick Rutter
How to Date a Feminist runs until Saturday 1 October, 8pm & 3.30pm, £17, £14 concs, at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin St, E8 3DL; 020 7503 1646. www.arcolatheatre.com
The show then tours to Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough on Friday 21 & Saturday 22 October, www.sjt.uk.com; and Watford Palace Theatre on Friday 4 & Saturday 5 November, http://watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk